PERTH: Pakistan’s left-arm spinner Imad Wasim says the tourists are better than their ranking suggests as they chase victory against the world’s No.1 side. Pakistan have returned to their most successful Australian venue looking to take a further bite out of an unsettled home side and take the lead in this VB ODI series. Traditionally regarded as a tourist trap for visiting teams, the WACA Ground in Perth is the only Australian venue where Pakistan hold a positive winning percentage against the home side in one-day cricket. Their last win here, in 2005, was their only win against Australia in Australia for 12 years across all formats until they ended that 17-match drought with a shock victory in Melbourne last Sunday. But while Pakistan can look to their four ODI wins from six matches here as proof that they can combat Australia on the country’s fastest and bounciest wicket, there’s a caveat to their winning record in the west. Three of their ODI victories here came with the likes of Imran Khan and Wasim Akram leading their bowling attack and while left-armers Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan have impressed in this series so far, comparisons to their legendary predecessors would be unfair to both parties. In addition, only one member of their most recent victory in Perth is in the current touring party; veteran Shoaib Malik, who contributed just a single to their three-wicket win here 12 years ago.
In fact, Pakistan’s most recent visit here (in 2010) left a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth, literally in the case of then skipper Shahid Afridi, who was infamously caught biting chunks out of the match ball and was subsequently banned for two matches. But with former Australia and (more importantly) Western Australia coach Mickey Arthur in their camp, the visitors say they can overcome the conditions and their lowly world rankings to take the lead in the series with victory on Thursday. “(Arthur) has told us about the wicket and the ground conditions and which areas to bowl and not to bowl,” spinner Imad Wasim said today. “So it’s been really good that Mickey knows this wicket and he’s told us a lot of things about it. “I personally believed before coming to this tour that we could beat any team in the world in shorter formats, because our team combination is very good. “Number eight in the world … that’s the ranking, but our side is better than that. If you don’t believe you can beat any opposition, there’s no point coming here. “We are here to beat them. We are here to play good cricket. We are here to fight.” For the second match in a row, Australia will again make at least two changes to their side with Mitchell Starc (rested) and Mitchell Marsh (shoulder injury) already ruled out. Test batting hero Peter Handscomb is set to become Australia’s 219th ODI player and debut in the middle order, while rookie Queensland quick Billy Stanlake is expected to come back into the side having bowled just three overs on debut in Brisbane last week due to illness.
Imad said the absence of the two Australian Mitches was a “good thing” for Pakistan, but paceman Josh Hazlewood said it was a chance for the inexperienced pair to push for more honours at the highest level. “It’s good opportunity for a couple of young guys to put their hand up,” he said. “Pete Handscomb has come in and he’s had a great summer so far. He’s flying with confidence and Billy has got a lot to offer with his height and pace so I’m looking forward to him having a bowl again. “And obviously Marcus Stoinis has come in (to the squad) as well. There’s a couple of guys who are in good form and it provides a good opportunity for them.” And even in the absence of his pace-bowling partner Starc, Hazlewood is confident he, Stanlake and fellow speedster Pat Cummins can have the Pakistan batsmen jumping on a WACA Ground surface that has shown signs of returning to its former glory as a pace-bowling paradise. “We always love playing over here in Perth,” he said. “The last two wickets, the Gabba especially, the boys said it wasn’t a traditional Gabba wicket and it didn’t have as much pace as usual. So it’ll be good to get out there and hopefully see the ball fly throw. We know they’ve got a couple of good quicks, but we know their batters don’t like the extra bounce and pace so hopefully it’s nice and quick,” he added.