Australia v Pakistan, only T20, Melbourne February 4, 2010

Last chance for Pakistan

Match Facts
Friday, February 5, MCG
Start time 19.35 (08.35 GMT)

Big Picture
Finally Pakistan's drawn out, controversial and currently win-less tour comes to an end. At the start of the summer they were a chance of challenging Australia in the Test series. Then they were determined to topple them with a band of reinforcements in the one-day series. After losing eight internationals in a row, this is the last opportunity to do something successful.

The good news is the tourists are the World Twenty20 champions after their triumph in England last year and they have won their past seven games in this genre. However, they will be without their captain Shahid Afridi, who was so hungry in the final ODI in Perth that he chomped on the ball. After admitting to tampering, he will miss two Twenty20s before being allowed back. That leaves Shoaib Malik in charge as the third leader of the trip.

Australia should be confident given their form this season, but this is their weakest format and they have won only 11 of their 24 internationals. Michael Clarke is captain full-time after Ricky Ponting's T20 retirement, but already there have been calls for Cameron White to have the top job given Clarke's apparent unsuitability to the game.

Form guide (Most recent first)
Australia ANLLL
Pakistan WWWWW

Watch out for…

Umar Gul didn't have much fun in the one-day series and hasn't played since delivering a nine-ball over that cost 23 in Adelaide. Those numbers should be ignored by the selectors because Gul is a Twenty20 master. He is the most successful bowler in the world in this format, with 39 wickets at 11.58 in 23 games.

Steven Smith is a batsman-legspinner who is most exciting for his brutal shot-making. Only 20, Smith has immense power and has quickly proved he is ready for international action, although the rise may have come a little too quickly for his bowling. He had limited opportunities in the Big Bash with the bat, but took seven wickets at 10.28 in five games and has 310 runs and nine victims in seven one-day domestic contests.

Team news
Australia have some strong fast bowlers to choose from, with Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait and Dirk Nannes jostling for three spots. There is also competition at the top of the order with Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh and David Warner all preferring to walk out first.

Australia squad Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh, David Warner, Michael Clarke (capt), Cameron White, Travis Birt, David Hussey, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait.

Pakistan have to tinker to fill the various roles of Afridi and are also without Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, who don't play Twenty20s. There are still 15 players with the squad so the touring selectors have plenty of options.

Pakistan squad Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal (wk), Fawad Alam, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik (capt), Khalid Latif, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Imran Nazir, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Saeed Ajmal, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Mohammad Aamer.

Pitch and conditions
The surface in Melbourne is usually hard work for everyone in the longer forms of the game, but that can often be overcome in Twenty20s. The weather might also be tricky, with rain predicted in the morning before easing to isolated showers.

Stats and trivia

  • Australia have lost both times they have faced Pakistan in Twenty20s
  • Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal have played 27 T20 internationals, four behind the leader Brendon McCullum, while Australia's most experienced men are Michael Clarke and Nathan Bracken, who is not in the squad, on 19.
  • Australia haven't completed a T20 game since their first-round exit at the World Twenty20 in June. Their two games against England in September were wash outs.
  • The MCG has hosted two of these internationals, with Australia winning each time

"We have to win this game. We are professionals and not [just] looking forward to us going back to our country after 100 days. We're just concentrating on tomorrow's match."
Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's stand-in captain

"They're the best team in the world at this format of the game. We'll have to play exceptionally well again to beat them."
Cameron White, Australia's vice-captain

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo