Pakistan must win big to stay alive
Friday, March 25, 2016
Start time 1500 (0930 GMT)
Since Australia's halting victory over Bangladesh in Bangalore, two subsequent Group 2 matches have provided considerable clarity to this match. New Zealand's defeat of Pakistan, followed by India's last over escape against Mashrafe Mortaza's team means that Pakistan are still in slim contention for the title - it all comes down to net run-rates.
Should Pakistan win in Mohali, they will need Australia to defeat India in the final match of the qualifying rounds and trust that their own net run-rate - currently far superior to both India and Australia - will be enough to squeeze them into second spot behind New Zealand. However, an Australian win would knock Pakistan out and set up a virtual quarter-final against India. These scenarios mean that the margin of victory in Mohali may turn out to be as significant as the result itself.
Neither team is in their best or most confident shape. David Warner betrayed this on the team's arrival in Punjab by suggesting that the ICC should institute a T20 exclusive period before the next global event, to be held in Australia in 2020, to ensure that all players have the chance to be at their best in this format. The Australian line-up remains fluid, perhaps more so than some of its members would have preferred. Smith is trying to find the right tempo for T20 after growing into a terrific Test and ODI batsman by following an early innings routine arguably too deliberate for this form of the game. Adam Zampa bowled nicely in Bangalore, but lacks front-line spin help.
Pakistan, meanwhile, have been subjected to ridicule after successive losses to India and New Zealand. Some of Shahid Afridi's more outspoken comments have also got him into trouble, and injuries to Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz have robbed him of his best line-up. All this adds up to a scenario of some chaos, invariably the position from which Pakistan tend to summon something extraordinary. Australia must be wary.
Australia: WLWWL (last five completed matches)
In the spotlight
More than five years after his international debut, Usman Khawaja will finally face the nation of his birth. Some have picked up faint traces of no less a talent than Saeed Anwar in his combination of placement and power, notably a much improved game through the off side and off the front foot. Well as he played in the first two matches, Khawaja will be looking for the sort of innings that stays in the memory, and a match against Pakistan might just be the time to do it.
Steven Smith and Shane Watson can remember a young Mohammad Amir swinging the ball through them at pace on an overcast Headingley morning in 2010. Much time has passed, but the rehabilitated Amir has not lost his speed or skill, and will be eager to showcase them against Australia. His left-arm angle may also cause the odd question for a batting line-up that did not cope particularly well with the whippy offerings of Mustafizur Rahman.
Ashton Agar may come back into Australian contention depending on the Mohali pitch, while Aaron Finch remains a reserve batting option should the selectors wish to shuffle a spluttering middle order.
Australia (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Usman Khawaja, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 David Warner, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 James Faulkner, 8 Peter Nevill (wk), 9 John Hastings, 10 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 11 Adam Zampa
Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz missed the New Zealand match through injuries. While Hafeez's fitness is still in doubt, Wahab is fit and may play in Mohammad Irfan's place.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Sharjeel Khan, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Khalid Latif, 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Mohammad Irfan/Wahab Riaz, 10 Mohammad Sami, 11 Mohammad Amir
Pitch and conditions
The weather is clear and temperatures are pleasant. The pitch in Mohali is expected to be similar to the one that New Zealand played on - Slow later in the innings but not too much turn. The big outfield, especially square, will ask more questions of Pakistan's fielding than of Australia, who are used to playing on such fields.
Stats and trivia
- Usman Khawaja's first international match against Pakistan, the nation of his birth.
- Pakistan hold a 3-2 edge over Australia in meetings at World T20 tournaments. Both Australian wins came at the 2010 event, including Michael Hussey's famous late heist in the semi-final
"At the end of the day it's where Smithy wants me to bat. I've batted there before in the IPL and I know my role. I've got to do as well as I can at that position. For us it's about having more power in the middle and having a left-hander there helps a great deal."
Australia vice-captain David Warner on his middle order role
"Everybody knows this is Lala's last World Cup. I respect him like I respect Inzamam bhai, Waqar bhai, wasim bhai. He is like an elder brother. I have learned a lot from him. Nobody will be happier than me if Pakistan win this World Cup for him."
Shoaib Malik shows solidarity amid reports of rifts
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig