Wade concerns force batting re-think
Matthew Wade's place in the Australian batting order against Pakistan may hinge on the outcome of the coin toss, as concerns mount over his ability to play as an opener after keeping wicket for 50 overs in the enervating heat of Sharjah.
Australia's acting coach - and former Test wicketkeeper - Steve Rixon has flagged the possibility of Wade being sent down the order should Australia field first against Pakistan in the opening match of the series, even suggesting that Michael Hussey may be promoted to open the batting as he does for Chennai, Rixon's IPL team.
In the defeat of Afghanistan, Wade batted at the top of the order and contributed a battling 75 before snaffling three catches. He was noticeably drained by the end, but would be stretched even further with only the dinner break between keeping wicket and opening the batting in a chase.
"Matthew Wade is probably the biggest concern," Rixon said in Sharjah. "He has a dual role to play. If he has to field first, and then go out and do the batting, he's going to look a lot more tired doing it that way than the way he did it last night. He's a guy we will have to manage well and his position in the batting may have a bearing on that."
Rixon made it clear he would welcome the chance to send Hussey up the order, though he demonstrated his value in the middle order with a rapid-fire 49 from 37 balls to ensure Australia reached a strong total against Afghanistan. The captain Michael Clarke, just promoted to No. 3, and the floating George Bailey are other options to open the batting.
"Probably a really positive option would be Mike Hussey," Rixon said, "who has opened with the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League."
Ahead of Australia's first meeting with Pakistan since the 2011 World Cup, Rixon suggested that Australia needed to play to the pace strength demonstrated against Afghanistan, though it is known that Pakistan will stack their side with up to four slow bowlers of quality.
"We've learnt a lot by actually playing a lot of our guys over the years in the Indian Premier League and other subcontinent competitions where we've actually seen how quicks bowling into the wicket with pace can be hard work," Rixon said. "To me, if that's our trump card, by all means we'll be using it accordingly. You don't just play spinners for the sake of it.
"You've got to be getting people who are going to play a role in your side. If that means three or four quicks, or three quicks and say [absent allrounder] Shane Watson to come into your bowling attack, by all means, that will be our attack. It's something we took on board and we'll probably be using it as one of our strengths."
Nonetheless, Clarke was keen to emphasise the importance of handling and using spin bowling as critical to the outcome of the series. Xavier Doherty, Glenn Maxwell and Steven Smith may be used primarily in support of Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson, but Clarke did not wish to underplay their importance to a winning combination.
"Whoever bowls spin the best and whoever plays spin the best will win the series," Clarke said. "Whether it is attacking or defending, the way our spinners bowl is going to be crucial to us having success. It doesn't mean they take all the wickets, as we've seen.
"The Australian way is, for a long time, fast bowlers have had success all around the world. I see this series being no different, but I do believe our spinners are going to play a huge part in us taking 10 wickets in every game."
As for the issue of humidity, Clarke said extra attention had to be paid in the form of sweatbands, and towels. "Probably the most important thing for us is when bowling second, realise how much you're sweating," Clarke said. "So we'll combat that with guys wearing sweatbands, make sure there's towels, to be able to hang onto the ball."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here