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by Salim Parvez Friday 22 March 2019
Pakistan 280 – 5 (Haris Sohail 101*, Umar Akmal 48, Shan Masood 40; Nathan Coulter-Nile 2-61)
Australia 281 - 2 (Aaron Finch 116, Shaun Marsh 91*; Mohammad Abbas 1-44)
Result - Australia won by 8 wickets
Powered by their skipper Aaron Finch’s 116 off 135 balls that featured 8 fours and 4 sixes and won him the Man of the Match award, the Aussies chased down the target of 281, with an over to spare. It was a clinical run chase with Finch and Shaun Marsh (91 not out) adding 172 for the 2nd wicket against a bowling attack that failed to show any spark.
Opting to bat first, Pakistan reached 280-5 in 50 overs in the first of five ODIs against Australia. Haris Sohail was the mainstay of Pakistan’s competitive total, whilst bringing up his maiden limited-overs hundred. It was an intelligent white ball knock for he was prepared to bat long on a slowish wicket in Sharjah, hosting its 236th ODI, more than any other venue in the world. Left-handed Haris’ unbeaten 101 came off 115 balls with 6 fours and a six.
Pakistan, a tad slow after losing Umar Akmal, who hit 3 sixes in his 48, in his first international outing since January 2017 and skipper Shoaib Malik in quick succession, finally reached 200 in the 42nd over. Faheem Ashraf, promoted to number six, hit out for a useful 28 off 27 balls to be followed by Imad Wasim’s timely 28 off 13 balls with 4 fours and a six helping to fetch as many as 55 runs in the last 5 overs.
In reply Australia sped away to 61-0 off the first 10 overs with both Finch and Usman Khawaja, showing positive intent. Imad Wasim’s first over of spin went for 14 runs before he settled into his usual groove. At the half way stage with skipper Finch on 67 and Yasir Shah wondering what he was doing in white ball cricket, the Australian score at 124 for 1, was looking ominous for Pakistan. It was in desperate need of wickets to claw back as Australia took 28.3 overs to reach 150 and then facing an equation of 123 runs in the last 20 overs with 9 wickets in hand. Imad Wasim bowled a maiden over - the 33rd of the innings – that took the required run rate to 6.64 runs per over but it did not hamper Australia much.
Inzamam-ul-Haq and co selectors have gambled by putting together a Pakistan squad for the five-ODI series against Australia, which is full of surprises and has a look of an A side, with two months to the World Cup in England. The workload of key players is a major issue for all cricket playing nations but by resting, captain Sarfraz Ahmed, along with Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Shaheen Afridi, the selectors with the backing of head coach Mickey Arthur, has understandably faced criticism.
The positive vibe from this unexpected move is to widen the pool of players from which Pakistan’s final World Cup squad will be picked. The inclusion of Mohammad Abbas and Yasir Shah, who have lately only played Test cricket, is a calculated move but could back fire. This year Pakistan has been offered a rare luxury of playing a five-ODI series in England, prior to the mega event in the same condition. It will be an ideal preparation and help to give the final touches to the World Cup campaign.
Pakistan - Shan Masood, Imam ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik(c), Mohammad Rizwan(wk), Faheem Ashraf, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas
Australia - Aaron Finch(c), Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Shaun Marsh, Alex Carey(wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa
©Cricket World 2019