After failing to defend 345 runs in a high-scoring opening warm-up game against New Zealand, Pakistan will look to get a win under its belt before the main tournament gets underway when it faces Australia in the second World Cup warm-up match at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium here on Tuesday.
At a venue where runs galore, given the nature of the flat tracks on offer, picking wickets upfront remains Pakistan’s area of focus as its batting looks sorted, with skipper Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan leading from the front.
Focus on openers
Pakistan will rely on its openers to set the tone after Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq, who opened the innings against New Zealand, failed to fire against New Zealand. Both openers were dismissed early, and Shafique will try to resist taking the adventurous route while tackling spin early on—an attempt that only packed him off.
The responsibility of providing a fiery start and maximising the PowerPlay lies on the shoulders of the openers after the team managed just 33 runs in the opener. The spotlight will also be on Fakhar Zaman and it remains to be seen if the explosive batter pads up for this game after missing the first warm-up match.
Rizwan, Babar hold key
Rizwan and Babar showed no signs of rustiness, with the wicketkeeper-batter smashing a century against the Kiwis before retiring hurt and the skipper notching a sublime half-century. The duo made most of the game time and will look to keep their batting engines running while the rest revolve around them.
Saud Shakeel impressed with his quickfire half-century and steers the middle order along with Iftikhar Ahmed, Agha Salman, and vice-captain Shadab Khan in its ranks. The form of Shadab has raised eyebrows, but the second in command is confident of making an impact.
Pakistan’s pace attack will look to stand up to its reputation despite the absence of Naseem Shah. Shaheen Afridi will be operating with the new ball with Hasan Ali or Haris Rauf being his new-ball partners.
However, Mohammad Wasim Jr. would like to bounce back after leaking 58 runs in the seven overs he bowled against New Zealand. Pace is its strength but to pick wickets in conditions that don’t offer much swing remains a challenge. Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab, and Agha will be sharing the spin duties and will look to purchase turn and use their variations to deceive the batters.
The conditions won’t be alien to the five-time World Cup champion, as they are fresh from a three-match ODI series against India. Although it lost the series that was played in Mohali, Indore and Rajkot, the Pat Cummins-led side began the 2023 World Cup warm-up on a bright note, with Steve Smith smashing a half-century in the rain-interrupted game against The Netherlands in Thiruvananthapuram.
Steve Smith gets a promotion
Smith opened the innings along with Josh Inglis and although the promotion might be temporary, the move did work and provided Australia with an alternative. In the 23-over warm-up game against the Dutch, the likes of Alex Carey and Cameron Green flourished with cameos, but Glenn Maxwell missed out. The big-hitter will look to flex his muscles against Pakistan ahead of the blockbusters and will like the conditions on offer.
Starc, the magician
Mitchell Starc set the stage on fire by picking up a hat-trick against The Netherlands with the pacer rocking with the new ball. Mitchell Marsh and Sean Abbott did pick wickets with Marnus Labuschagne adding variety to the attack. Although rain curtailed Australia’s preparation, the hat-trick of title winners (1999, 2003, 2007) gave enough indications that it is aiming to capture an unprecedented sixth title, this time on Indian soil.
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