Pakistan desperate to avoid whitewash
Sunday, January 31
Start time 12.30pm (0430 GMT)
Avoiding humiliation is probably as great a motivator as anything and it is only the thought of preventing the second-ever 5-0 whitewash in their history that will spur Pakistan to seek their first win of a long and increasingly arduous tour. That the first came under the captaincy of Imran Khan, against West Indies in 1988, will be of little consolation.
Mohammad Yousuf's men have cut sorry, disparate figures as the tour has progressed since the Sydney Test. They were expected to put up a fight in the ODIs and though they have been in most of the games at various stages, 4-0 remains an accurate reflection of the gulf in class. Their batting has been shaky; only three fifties through the series and the middle order giants - the two Y's - have a paltry 145 runs between them.
Mohammad Asif apart, their bowling has missed as much as it has hit. Umar Gul is horrendously out of sorts; Rana Naved-ul-Hasan has been committed as ever, yet still gone for well over six an over. The death overs are a mess. Most damagingly, the spinners have been neutralised. Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal have been picked off for five runs an over each and have seven wickets to show between them. Yousuf talks of the team having improved under him, but a more delusional assessment is not possible.
By contrast, Australia are shining and they haven't even played Mitchell Johnson yet. They've used three new-ball pairings and all are among the wickets. Ryan Harris has two consecutive five-fors, Clint McKay is taking wickets and Shane Watson, who has been rested for the Perth ODIs, still has more wickets than any Pakistani bowler.
Five of their top six have scored at least one fifty, they have the series' only century and even Nathan Hauritz joined the fun in the fourth ODI. The only blot is, of course, the ongoing concern over the captain's form. Ricky Ponting has struggled through the ODI series, with only 70 runs; as opposed to the Tests, he hasn't looked comfortable in any of the games.
But then it would be entirely in keeping with the Australian way for the captain to find form in the last game and lead his side to a whitewash.
Form guide (Most recent first)
Watch out for...
Ryan Harris is Australia's man of the moment, having picked up two five-fors in two games and yet he still might not make the cut for the last game, such is Australia's strength in depth. Mitchell Johnson is expected to make a return but if Harris does play, there is little wrong he can do with the ball at the moment. Who would bet against him becoming only the second man to take three five-fors in a row after Waqar Younis?
One of the few bright spots on this tour for Pakistan - and that too with qualifications - has been Umar Akmal. It says much for the paucity of their batting strength that he has looked their best, most comfortable batsman every time he has walked to the crease and mostly he has done it with his side in trouble. He hasn't had the best luck in the ODIs and hasn't yet kicked on to a significantly big score, but there remains a sense that a big score is coming.
In keeping with their policy through the series, Australia are likely to bring in Mitchell Johnson in place of the one of their pacemen. The question is who would you drop though? Peter Siddle is likely to be rested after he suffered a sore back at the start of the series and the selectors have called up Shaun Tait as cover.
Australia (probable): 1 Shaun Marsh, 2 Brad Haddin (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Cameron White, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 James Hopes, 8 Peter Siddle/Mitchell Johnson, 9 Nathan Hauritz, 10 Ryan Harris, 11 Clint McKay.
Pakistan called up Khalid Latif for the ODI series but have yet to play him, despite encouraging results in the last three games he played for them against New Zealand. Kamran Akmal's form with the bat as opener hasn't been great and Sarfraz Ahmed is there as a replacement, so logic would suggest such a change. But this is Pakistan, so it isn't likely.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Salman Butt, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf (capt), 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Fawad Alam, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, 9 Rao Iftikhar Anjum, 10 Mohammad Asif, 11 Saeed Ajmal.
Pitch and conditions
The pitch won't change too much from Friday night, but the conditions will be friendlier on the ground. A sunny day is expected but the maximum is a considerably cooler 30C.
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan have lost eight of their last ten ODIs.
- Cameron White has scored just eight runs less than Pakistan's entire top three in the series.
- Friday's win was Australia's first over Pakistan in an ODI at Perth.
"The boys have been there and have done such a great job over the last two or three years. If the boys say to me on Sunday have a rest, then have a rest. That doesn't really bother me. I look long term and think that if I keep bowling well then I'll make them pick me, make myself be the frontline bowler. But that's probably a little way off."
Harris talks like a man who has taken ten wickets in his last two games.
"Today I am thinking about sending [him] to No. 3 or 4. If he charges early on maybe we have a good chance. But we had a chat with the coach and he said no, keep going with same batting line-up. I think maybe it can work."
Yousuf was planning to send Shahid Afridi higher up the order in the chase on Friday but the idea was vetoed by the coach Intikhab Alam.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo