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Wobbly Aussies face another trial by spin

ANALYST
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02 Jul 2018, 09:36 IST

ICC World Twenty20 India 2016: Pakistan v Australia

Australia would have hoped for some solace following their torturous trip to England where they were ground in all departments. Their newest challenge in their tri-series opener, though, is as stiffer, if not less. They lock horns with an in-form Pakistan side who are currently top of the global T20 rankings. There isn’t much difference between the two sides as far as rankings are concerned but it’s the momentum and the spirit they bring in that matters.

Despite the absence of Warner, Smith and their star pace-bowling triplet, this Australian team still boasts some highly gifted cricketers that can win games on any day through individual brilliance. That aside, their poor run of form as a team is a major concern which needs immediate recognition. Australia lack the vigor and dominating spirit that they’re traditionally known for.

A sizable factor that played its part in their downfall in England was their batsmen’s inability to tackle the not-so-mystic spin bowling by Englishmen. Here in Zimbabwe where the pitches are usually slow and more favorable to spinners, the Aussies could expect nothing less. Aaron Finch admitted that getting accustomed to the conditions is vital if Australia want to be successful in the series.

“England was a tough tour, losing the one-dayers and the T20 game. But we're here to win. There's only a handful of us that have played here before, but we know reasonably well what the conditions are going to be. Half the boys trained this morning, and half were [at Harare Sports Club] to watch today to just try and find out some more info.”

However, Pakistan’s varied attack is bound to impose a far greater challenge to this inexperienced batting line. From an ingeniously clever leggie in Shadab, to an orthodox, left-arm spinner in Nawaz, to the guile and craftiness of Hafeez’s right-arm spin, Pakistan have got pretty much everything in their spin-bowling arsenal. Pakistan’s slower bowlers plucked out 5 of Zimbabwe’s wickets while conceding a modest 43 runs amongst them.

Pakistan have the necessary firepower to overwhelm the Aussies. Australia, on the contrary, will be desperate for a much-awaited win and shrug off the instability and negativity surrounding the team. It’s been a while since they’ve tasted triumph and coming out victorious against the top-ranked T20 side will give them a shot of confidence. “We're ranked no. 3 in the world behind Pakistan, so this is a really good opportunity to test ourselves again and make sure that we're measuring up and still improving in this format,” added Finch, recognizing the bulky trial that awaits.

Australia have tinkered with a lot of playing XI combinations over the past 6 months but to no beneficial result. Several players have failed miserably and the dearth of bench-strength means that the management must regularly shuffle the players around in different positions to find the best possible balance.

In spite of a lot of experimentation in England, Australia are yet to discover the finest playing XI that they can muster out of this squad. Pakistan, though, are expected to play the same team that inflicted a clinical drubbing over hosts, Zimbabwe. The depth in their batting and bowling offers them a clear advantage over the battered Aussies. But we will have to wait and see if their ‘unpredictable’ factor comes to haunt them and rip off their glorious winning streak.

Conditions are expected to remain dry with clear skies. Thus, batting first and putting up a decent total would be the preferred choice for whoever wins the toss. 

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