Big picture: Advantage whom?
After hidings against India and South Africa, Australia demonstrated they weren’t about to give up on their campaign with a whimper. A complete performance with bat, ball and in the field sank Sri Lanka, earning them their first points and improving their negative net run rate. Mitchell Marsh fired after two failures, while Adam Zampa’s impressive haul and control through the middle overs marks a point of difference to the Pakistan spin department, who are especially short of form at present.
Australia’s failure to keep the opposition openers on a leash two games in a row might be a concern, especially since the Bengaluru pitch is expected to be flat. But the way they pulled Sri Lanka back, taking the last nine wickets for 52 runs, will encourage them, not least because Pakistan crumbled in similar fashion in their most recent encounter.
Despite playing lots of ODIs over the past eight weeks, the jury remains out on the merits of this Pakistan side. The concomitant hysteria that follows a defeat to India has dragged the debate to the extremes, but are not so much as a blank canvas as an abstract portrait, one which can be interpreted in a variety of ways without quite being able to extract any objective truth out of.
They’ve got an amazing bowling attack, though much of it is either injured or out of form. They possess a sensational top three but refer again to the previous sentence for the caveat. Their middle order has finally begun to perform, though they did lose their last eight for 36 against India. They have a generational allrounder in Shadab Khan, but he’s so woefully out of form his place in the starting XI isn’t guaranteed. They’ve notched up two wins in three, though they came against an Associate nation and the only winless side at this tournament.
Perhaps this early in the tournament though, only broad brushstrokes have been committed to canvas, and the full picture is still to emerge. But Australia vs Pakistan has historically always mattered in the World Cup. As both sides try to reinvigorate a campaign that hasn’t got off to the best of starts, it’s worth remembering there has never been a World Cup where at least one of these two don’t make the final four. In Bengaluru, one will take another step to holding up their end of that bargain.
Australia WLLWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Maxwell and Babar
There was a bit of uncertainty about the condition of Adam Zampa’s back, but Pat Cummins confirmed he was fully fit. Australia should field an unchanged side.
Australia (likely) 1 David Warner 2 Mitchell Marsh 3 Steven Smith 4 Marnus Labuschagne 5 Josh Inglis (wk) 6 Glenn Maxwell 7 Marcus Stoinis 8 Mitchell Starc 9 Pat Cummins (capt) 10 Adam Zampa 11 Josh Hazlewood
Pakistan (likely) 1 Abdullah Shafique 2 Imam-ul-Haq 3 Babar Azam (capt) 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 5 Saud Shakeel 6 Mohammad Nawaz/Shadab Khan 7 Iftikhar Ahmed 8 Usama Mir 9 Hasan Ali 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi 11 Haris Rauf
Pitch and conditions
The pitch at the Chinnaswamy Stadium is expected to be flat and the boundaries short. Expect a run-fest, one which rain has no chance of interrupting.
Stats and trivia
- Zampa requires three wickets to reach 150 ODI scalps; the only other Australian legspinner to manage that is Shane Warne.
- The 10 ODI World Cup encounters between Australia and Pakistan have been split 6-4 in favour of Australia. The five-time champions have dominated the head-to-head of late, winning four of their last five World Cup matches stretching back to the 1999 final.
- Each of the last six ODI World Cup matches between these two have been won by the side that lost the toss.
“Pakistan are a side that always seem to be right up there. Pretty well structured. They’re a really strong side pretty much in all facets”
Pat Cummins isn’t taking Pakistan lightly
Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000