SHARJAH: Pakistan’s stand-in captain Shoaib Malik hopes his new-look side will be up for a challenge against a resurgent Australia side as they meet in the first of five one-day internationals in Sharjah on Friday.
Pakistan have rested their six key players – captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi – in order to give them well-deserved rest and allow bench players a chance to grab a spot in the World Cup squad.
Malik hoped the new players – Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Saad Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain – and recalled Umar Akmal, Yasir Shah and Mohammad Rizwan will take this opportunity. “Look, every series is a tough series so this is another tough series for us,” said Malik at the trophy unveiling ceremony.
“Australia have come at the back of a series win in India, so their morale will be high, but we have taken a good initiative to check our bench strength and I am sure the conditions in UAE will favour us.”
In the absence of Fakhar, Shan is likely to make his ODI debut after piling runs in domestic one-day matches, against New Zealand ‘A’, England Lions and on the Test tour of South Africa.
There will be a tie between Test specialist Mohammad Abbas and 18-year-old rookie fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain for the one available spot in the pace attack.
Malik admitted Australia were a strong side, who have done well in UAE. “They play the game in an aggressive style, so we have to match that aggression,” said Malik, who also led Pakistan between 2007 and 2009.
“They are a strong team and have everything from fast bowling to spin, so we have to be at our best.”
Paceman Pat Cummins took 13 wickets while leg-spinner Adam Zampa 11 in the series against India. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon is also in the squad.
Pakistan will also look to give ODI cap to one from Mohammad Abbas, a good performer at Test level, and Mohammad Hasnain who has recently impressed with his pace in the recently concluded HBL PSL 2019.
“This is a good opportunity for the youngsters to not only make their name but also vie for the available World Cup spots,” said Malik. “The decision to rest the players, who deserved the rest after playing continuous cricket, was unanimous and a wise one.”
Australia, at the back of a 3-2 series win in India two weeks ago, are not going to take a new-look Pakistan lightly, their captain Aaron Finch said. “I think Pakistan have obviously played in these conditions for a long time, but coming off the tour of India it is very crucial that we managed to play some really good cricket there,” said Finch.
“Well, they have got a lot of experience in their side and have lot of experience playing in these conditions here in Sharjah. They still a world-class team. We have seen it when we were in Dubai for the T20 series,” said Finch of the 0-3 whitewash in the Twenty20 series in October last year.