Australia v Pakistan, Group F, Johannesburg

Upbeat Pakistan face Australian test

The Preview by S Rajesh in Johannesburg

September 17, 2007

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A good outing with the bat for Shahid Afridi could well see Pakistan book a place in the semi-finals © AFP

Pakistan's convincing win against Sri Lanka means their match against Australia - their first game of any kind against them for two and a half years - on Tuesday could well decide which team takes top spot in the group. Australia have bounced back superbly after their shock defeat against Zimbabwe, but that was hardly unexpected, considering the quality in their team. Pakistan's comprehensive win against Sri Lanka was an unexpected result, and it sets up Tuesday's game perfectly.

Australia have the momentum, and usually in important tournaments they've shown a tendency not to let go once they get on a roll. Pakistan, on the other hand, tend to blow hot one day and cold the next. Anything less than a near-perfect performance won't be enough.

Bat play: Pakistan's openers continue to be a worry, and while the team recovered in style against Sri Lanka, it might be more difficult to come out of a poor start against the Australians. The good news is Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik have run into form, and Misbah-ul-Haq has shown himself to be breathtakingly innovative and consistent at the same time. And perhaps the better news is Pakistan have done well without a significant contribution from Shahid Afridi.

Australia, meanwhile, have had two games where most of their batsmen haven't needed a hit. Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist have been in terrific form, but there could be questions asked of the rest if the openers fall early.

Wrecking ball: Both teams have an impressive bowling attack. Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul have proved themselves in the past, but Sohail Tanvir has been the surprise package. He troubled the Indians with his awkward action and his ability to swing the ball away from the right-hander, and Mahela Jayawardene admitted the Sri Lankans had trouble picking him too. Add Shahid Afridi to the mix and Pakistan have a more than competent bowling line-up.

The same can be said for the Australians as well. Brett Lee is fresh from a hat-trick against Bangladesh, while Stuart Clark has succeeded in staunching the runs and taking wickets. In his 12 overs in the tournament so far, he has figures of 5 for 59.

Keep an eye on: Ricky Ponting. He is a big-match player, and can be expected to seize the moment and the game.

Shop talk: Clark's statements on the eve of the game showed the frame of mind the Australians are in. "I don't think the Australian cricket team fears anyone. They [Pakistan] are a very good team with very good players, [but] we're starting to get into a bit of a rhythm. We're enjoying it and the guys' skills are slowly getting better."

Pakistan have lost more than one World Cup game against Australia, and Salman Butt, their vice-captain, admitted that they'd be up against a better team than Sri Lanka, who they beat so convincingly.

Pitch talk: If it's Johannesburg, it has to be a belter. The bowlers could be in for another tough day in the office.

Australia (probable): Adam Gilchrist (wk), Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (capt), Andrew Symonds, Brad Hodge, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Stuart Clark, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Mitchell Johnson.

Pakistan (probable): Salman Butt, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik (capt), Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk), Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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