Twenty20s a chance to gain the edge
Monday, July 5 and Tuesday, July 6, Edgbaston
Start time 1700 (1600 GMT)
The Big Picture
Pakistan and Australia will spend the next month battling in the neutral territory of England and this Twenty20 at Edgbaston gives the teams their first glimpse at the opposition. Little is riding on the two-game Twenty20 series, given that it comes barely six weeks after the World Twenty20. But a one-sided contest to either team could provide a morale boost ahead of the two Tests later this month. Australia are coming off a lost ODI series, although they won the final two games, while Pakistan failed in the Asia Cup but also finished on a high when they thrashed Bangladesh.
Any team captained by Shahid Afridi and featuring Shoaib Akhtar cannot fail to fascinate. Akhtar might not have been at his fittest during the Asia Cup, but will the sight of Shaun Tait pressing 160kph spark him back towards his high-speed best? And will Afridi, who led Pakistan to the World Twenty20 semi-finals, find a way to end Pakistan's losing streak of 12 matches against Australia across all formats?
The last time the teams met, it was a high-class encounter that brought nearly 400 runs and one of the most memorable finishes in the format's short history, as Michael Hussey drove Australia into the World Twenty20 final. They needed 18 from the last over; Hussey did it with a ball to spare. There's far less to play for this time, but the result is no doubt burned into the memories of the Pakistan players. Here's their right of reply.
Form guide (Most recent first)
Watch out for
It's been all about Shaun Tait over the past week, but he'll be joined in a fierce new-ball attack in Birmingham by Dirk Nannes. There hasn't been a place in Australia's one-day line-up for Nannes, so he's fresh after playing only Twenty20s for Nottinghamshire lately. His left-arm angle and speed always creates headaches and if the batsmen try to see Tait off and attack at the other end, it could spell success for Nannes.
Umar Akmal's career is still in its infancy, but already he has the respect of the Australian bowlers. One-third of his international matches have been played against Australia and his ability to score quickly makes him especially dangerous in Twenty20s. The last time he met Michael Clarke's men, he blasted an unbeaten 56 from 35 balls in the World Twenty20 semi-final.
The loss of Ryan Harris to a knee injury leaves Australia with 13 fit men in their squad, although that's perhaps not the best way to describe the captain Michael Clarke. He missed the final ODI against England on Saturday with a sore back and although he will probably play on Monday, it's not locked in yet, and his deputy Cameron White will be waiting for word on whether he will have to step up. The more likely scenario is James Hopes and Steve O'Keefe will sit out and the only change from the World Twenty20 final will be Tim Paine in for Brad Haddin.
Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 David Warner, 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 Steve Smith, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Dirk Nannes, 11 Shaun Tait.
Pakistan's batting order is something of a mystery, but expect Shahzaib Hasan to open up with Salman Butt. Umar Gul should make his return from a shoulder injury that has kept him out of international action since Pakistan played England in Dubai in February.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Shahzaib Hasan, 3 Shoaib Malik, 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Shahid Afridi, 6 Kamran Akmal (wk), 7 Abdur Razzaq, 8 Umar Gul, 9 Shoaib Akhtar, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammad Aamer.
Pitch and conditions
The Edgbaston pitch might offer some turn, which would theoretically favour Pakistan, but there have been some good totals produced in the domestic Twenty20 there this year. If it's humid - which is a distinct possibility - the ball could swing, which would make Tait, Nannes, Akhtar and Gul very dangerous.
- Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi are the two leading wicket takers in Twenty20 internationals; Australia's first entry on the worldwide list is Mitchell Johnson at number eight
- Australia's top two run scorers in Twenty20s are David Warner and David Hussey, neither of whom currently play for their country in any other format
- The teams have met in five Twenty20s; Pakistan won the first two and Australia have won the past three
"We smashed them in Australia and Mike Hussey did an amazing job in that last Twenty20 game we played against them."
Mitchell Johnson hopes Australia can carry on their recent stranglehold on Pakistan across all formats
"The way we've been playing and with our combination I have enough belief to defeat Australia. Even they are aware that we have given them some difficult times"
Shahid Afridi remains typically belligerent ahead of a challenging series
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.