Pakistan at the precipice
October 2, 2012
Start time 1530 local (1000 GMT)
One poor showing, against India no less, has suddenly thrown Pakistan's World Twenty20 campaign onto far less certain ground than it had occupied solidly since day one of the tournament. Another loss to Australia, the competition's most assured and dominant team so far, and the Pakistanis will be highly unlikely to make the semi-finals. It is a harsh scenario, but a reflection of the competition's format, calling for consistent results. The hesitance and doubt evident against India must quickly be shed from the minds and limbs of Pakistan's cricketers, but the looming possibility of elimination may not aid the return of a state of focus.
By contrast, Australia know they do not even need to win to progress, for they will qualify for the semi-finals unless Pakistan can inflict the sort of thrashing George Bailey's men have commonly dealt out so for, and a similar margin unfolds in India's match against South Africa. So far led with exceptional poise and power by the irrepressible Shane Watson, the Australians have not had their depth of batting tested. Nevertheless, the likes of Michael Hussey and Cameron White have shown decent touch in their brief stays at the crease, and the confidence of all players has benefited from Watson's show of strength.
These two sides are very familiar with one another, having contested T20 and ODI series in the UAE as a prelude to this event. Australia began that T20 series floundering, and ended it with growing confidence. They have gone up another notch or three since, while Pakistan have been shaken by the India defeat. Mohammad Hafeez's team will hope to regain the confidence they showed in Dubai, or risk elimination from an event they looked in with a chance to win a few days ago.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
The outstanding display by Xavier Doherty on his recall to the team has placed some pressure on Brad Hogg for his spot in the XI, should Australia wish to revert back to a one spinner policy against teams better versed at slow bowling than South Africa. Hogg has bowled tidily enough during the tournament, and offered plenty of energy in the field. But he has only two victims at a cost of 53.50 so far, and will need to provide a greater impact on the wickets column as the tournament reaches its pointy end.
Plenty of chatter has surrounded Mohammad Hafeez's surprisingly halting display with the bat and in the field against India. While there is some understanding at the occasion getting the better of Hafeez and his team, Pakistan's captain must show greater steel against Australia in order to push his team to the next phase. Hafeez should be helped by a return to the top of the bowling attack, for his spin has troubled David Warner in the past.
Pakistan can either make changes in reaction to the heavy defeat against India or keep faith with the XI that had previously looked so poised at this event.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Hafeez (capt), 2 Imran Nazir, 3 Nasir Jamshed, 4 Kamran Akmal (wk), 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Umar Gul, 9 Yasir Arafat, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Raza Hasan
Xavier Doherty will be very difficult to drop from Australia's XI following his exceptional 3 for 20 against South Africa.
Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Mike Hussey, 4 Cameron White, 5 George Bailey (capt), 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Brad Hogg, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Xavier Doherty
Pitch and conditions
As expected, the Premadasa Stadium surface is growing more sluggish and spin friendly with each passing match. It will not be too far removed from the Dubai surface on which Australia and Pakistan last met.
Stats and trivia
- A win for Australia would equal their longest winning streak in T20Is, a span of six matches at the 2010 World T20 in the Caribbean
- Defeat for Pakistan would have them miss the semi-finals of the World T20 for the first time. They were finalists in 2007, winners in 2009 and beaten semi-finalists in 2010
"Things are just falling my way at the moment, I suppose. Things can turn and your form can go against you so you've got to make the most of it while you can."
Shane Watson hopes he won't have to wake up soon.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here