A buoyant Pakistan led by in-form skipper Babar Azam start as favourites against depleted world champions Australia in their only Twenty20 international on Tuesday in Lahore.
Azam proved why he is the world’s top one-day batsman with back-to-back hundreds to help Pakistan win the 50-over series at the weekend and he is just as deadly in the shorter version of the game.
Azam’s 276 runs in three matches, combined with opener Imam-ul-Haq’s 298, helped Pakistan clinch the series 2-1, including chasing down a record 349 in the second game.
“We were on the receiving end of a couple of great knocks from Babar and Imam,” said Australia skipper Aaron Finch.
Australia’s interim head coach Andrew McDonald also singled out Azam as the danger man. “Pakistan has always been a handful in their own conditions,” he said.
“Babar Azam has done incredibly well in the ODI series to make it really difficult for us.”
An injury-hit Australia will field just three players from the side that beat Pakistan in the semi-final of the Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai last year.
Australia went on to win the title, with Mitchell Marsh playing a starring role in the final against New Zealand. The all-rounder is out injured this time.
Pakistan have the edge in overall results, having won 12 of their 22 Twenty20 matches against the tourists. One match was tied and one produced no result.
McDonald-backed skipper Finch to return to form after back-to-back ducks in the last two ODIs, following just 23 in the first.
“He has that ability to work through these patches,” McDonald said.
“Do we think he is still good enough to play at this level? 100 percent yes and that is as simple as it gets for us.” McDonald said spinner Ashton Agar and reserve wicketkeeper Josh Inglis should be available for selection after missing the ODI series following positive tests for Covid.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Asif Afridi, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Haris, Zahid Mahmood, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Junior, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir
Australia: Aaron Finch (captain), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Ben Dwarshuis, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Ben McDermott, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Adam Zampa
Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK) and Ahsan Raza (PAK) TV umpire: Asif Yaqoob (PAK) Match referee: Mohammad Javed Malik.—Agencies