Pakistan vs Australia 2019: Selection headache a positive for Aussies ahead of WC 2019
Australia completed a 5-0 series win over Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, giving them a massive confidence boost ahead of the World Cup and raising a few questions for Pakistan to answer regarding their World Cup combination.
Australia will be pleased by the runs of Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, and Shaun Marsh, and the bowling of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, and Pat Cummins. Their performances create a selection headache for Australia as they now have to accommodate their performances as well as the returns of Steven Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazlewood.
Pakistan impressed with a series of individual performances that never fit into one solid team performance. Having rested first-choice players such as Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Fakhar Zaman, and Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik led in the hope of identifying a few key players and backup options. They succeeded to an extent in that regard but will be disappointed in their lack of a convincing team performance.
Australia found form, consistency, and confidence
A year on from the ball-tampering scandal that engulfed Smith, Warner, and Cameron Bancroft, Australia have found a solution to their ODI concerns.
Their consolidatory and accumulative style of play paid off in this series with a 5-0 win led superbly by Aaron Finch with 2 centuries and 2 half-centuries. He was ably supported by Usman Khawaja (272 runs, 3 half-centuries), Shaun Marsh (182 runs, 2 half-centuries), and Glenn Maxwell with 258 runs and 3 half-centuries. Maxwell's form was the biggest reassurance for Australia as he showed that he can score runs consistently and exhibit his destructive capabilities with the bat.
Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Zampa impressed 7 wickets each and Jhye Richardson bowled with good pace before injury brought an unfortunate end to his series. Pat Cummins took 3 wickets in the one match that he played in and Nathan Lyon impressed with his economy rate of 4.98 but would have wanted more than 5 wickets at an average of 49.80.
With Finch, Khawaja, and Marsh scoring runs at the top of the order and Maxwell and Peter Handscomb scoring runs in the middle order, it is unclear where Smith and Warner fit in Australia's plans for the World Cup. It would be unfair on the incumbent batsmen if they have to make way, but their good form suggests a healthy competition for batting spots.
Multiple individual performances for Pakistan to look at
Pakistan will regret that they did not once perform as a team throughout the series but will be impressed by the performances of different players.
Haris Sohail (291 runs, 2 centuries) and Mohammad Rizwan (231 runs, 2 centuries) were Pakistan's best batsmen in the series. Umar Akmal scored 150 runs without any half-century, Shan Masood managed one half-century, Abid Ali scored 112 on debut and Imad Wasim scored an unbeaten half-century in the final ODI. Worryingly, Pakistan was not able to accelerate after establishing a platform, reaching 280 and 284 in the first two matches when they could have made at least 300-310 in both.
Usman Shinwari was the sole bowling positive for Pakistan with 5 wickets at an average of 27.80. Junaid Khan and Yasir Shah took 4 wickets each throughout the series and Mohammad Abbas managed one wicket in 3 matches. Mohammad Amir was wicketless in the one match that he played, continuing a poor run of form since the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Pakistan must decide whether to back Amir and take him to the World Cup or take someone like Shinwari or Junaid in his place and must find a way to incorporate power hitters in their middle order if they are to compete with other teams at the WC 2019.