Australia vs Pakistan: First ODI Preview

Batsman takes guard

Australia and Pakistan get the ODI segment of their bi-lateral series underway in the early hours of Friday morning. 

A rather one-sided Test series takes a back seat to a string of ODIs that should be pretty competitive this month, starting with Friday's series opener in Brisbane.

Australia have made some cut-throat decisions among their personnel, while Pakistan have been forced to accommodate some unforeseen replacements.

Australia v Pakistan | Friday, 13 January 2017 | The 'Gabba, Brisbane | 03:20

To Win Match
Australia 7/20 | Tie 35/1 | Pakistan 9/4

The Aussies are acutely aware of the jam-packed year, which includes the Champions Trophy in the United Kingdom, a challenging series against India and the Ashes. Hence, the decision to rest Josh Hazelwood for at least the first ODI is no surprise. Opportunity, then, knocks for the uncapped Billy Stanlake to step up. The 22-year-old has a mere four List A performances to his name, but his selection is right on cue with Australia's penchant for picking in-form, inexperienced fast bowlers.

The hosts made a few big calls in not choosing Aaron Finch and George Bailey. Neither have performed particularly poorly in recent months - and both occupy top 20 spots in the International Cricket Council's rankings for ODI batsmen. However, as ever, the Australians have an eye to the future - and there was only space for 14 in this squad.

That man Chris Lynn is by far the most exciting selection. He has been an absolute sensation for the Brisbane Heat in the ongoing Big Bash League, with scores of 29, 85 not out, 84 not out, 13 and 98 not out insisting he be elevated to national level. Trevor Hohns and company duly obliged. Let's see if he can translate his 20-over heroics into 50-over fireworks. The pressure is certainly on, given the big names left out to make room for him.

A team atop the ICC ODI team rankings really shouldn't struggle against opposition seven positions inferior - and away from home. But one never quite knows what Pakistan unit is going to rock up on the day - and if Australia slip into the struggles endured against South Africa last year, the visitors could gain momentum quickly enough. If Australia are going to falter in any format at the moment, the intermediate ODI games seems the most likely.

Win a Bakkie Banner Nissan NP 200

The three-nil fold in the Test series forced Pakistan to reconsider their options for the limited-overs leg of the tour - and they've subsequently added Mohammad Hafeez to the squad. Cleared of a dodgy arm action and allowed to bowl again, the veteran all-rounder brings a most welcome dynamic to the collective - and, if afforded the chance, can make an immediate impact at the 'Gabba. Azhar Ali needs to manage him well.

Doubts loomed over Ali's status as ODI captain recently - but he has been retained. He would do well to allow himself the confidence to inspire where Misbah-ul-Haq could not during the Tests, and followers can look forward to a quick change of gears from the Test match-cum-ODI opener. His governance of the rest of the batting order, too, is vital - and here's hoping the likes of Sharjeel Khan, Shoaib Malik and company follow suit.

It would have been great to watch Mohammad Irfan back in action on the hard, fast decks Down Under. The towering quick bowler, however, has returned home after his mother passed away. In comes Junaid Khan, then, with his left-arm seam anything but a like-for-like replacement. Pakistan's bowling plans, indeed, have had to change from one week to the next. One struggles to see them fitting three southpaws - Junaid, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz - in the same XI at the 'Gabba, though.

Pakistan have not beaten Australia in a bilateral ODI series in 14 years. In isolation, though, they can take inspiration from 2012's seven-wicket triumph in the second ODI. This week's experimentation - and resultant victory - over a formidable Cricket Australia XI, too, bodes well. The achievements of Babar Azam (near century) and Hasan Ali (three key wickets) demand they be the first names penned to paper for the Brisbane showdown.

Verdict: Pakistan, 9/4
The psychology of cricket suggests Pakistan will win the series opener and go on to lose most of the rest. With the Test series a bitter memory and the captaincy back with Ali, several fresh faces should spout enough exuberance, runs an wickets to force a victory at the 'Gabba.

Value bet: A hundred to be scored in the match, 5/10
While the market doesn't require you to name exactly who might score a century in the first ODI, you are all but assured one or more batters will reach three figures. Steven Smith, Peter Handscomb, Asad Shafiq and India's Rohit Sharma are the latest recipients of 'Gabba centuries - and long may the trend continue.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for

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