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August 28, 2012
Big PictureAustralia's one-off entrée against Afghanistan now complete, it's time for the main course in the UAE: a three-match ODI series followed by three Twenty20s against Pakistan. That the series is even going ahead is a credit to both countries, for finding a venue and a suitable time proved harder than anyone could have imagined. Initially, Sri Lanka was to host the matches but the scheduling of the SLPL at the same time scuppered that plan. Malaysia was considered, with the heat in the UAE at this time of year making it unsuitable for day-time play, but in the end the boards agreed to play in the UAE with a 6pm start for the ODIs, to avoid the hottest part of the afternoon.
The conditions and the likelihood of turning pitches will give Pakistan a good chance of breaking their ten-year drought without a one-day series win against Australia. Not that Pakistan have been in particularly good one-day form: they lost a series to Sri Lanka in June and to England in the UAE in February. Australia are similarly struggling in the 50-over format; having been soundly beaten by England they slipped to fourth on the ICC one-day rankings, and could fall further if they lose to Pakistan, who are sixth.
Both sides are without some senior players: Pakistan have dropped Umar Gul and Younis Khan, and Australia are missing Clint McKay due to injury and Shane Watson, who is being rested to allow him more time for strength and conditioning work ahead of a busy schedule. Pakistan are expected to use a spin-heavy attack in this first match, while Australia have decided to rely on pace, having seen the ball swing in their win against Afghanistan.
Form guide (Complete matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
It's nearly 18 months since Kamran Akmal last played for his country in any format, in the World Cup semi-final loss to India. Since then, Pakistan have rotated through four different wicketkeepers in ODIs, including Kamran's brothers Adnan Akmal and Umar Akmal. Now it is his turn again. Kamran's batting is always a threat, although in 15 ODIs he has only once scored more than 50 against Australia, but it's his glovework that often lets the team down. As part of the squad for this tour and the ICC World Twenty20, he needs to find his best form with both bat and gloves over the next month.
By promoting himself to No.3, Michael Clarke has said that he is the man to fix Australia's batting black hole. In the past year, Australia have used Clarke, Ricky Ponting, Peter Forrest, Shane Watson, Matthew Wade and George Bailey at first drop, for a combined average of 23.37. Against Afghanistan Clarke made 75 and it was a positive sign, and he will be aiming to keep that form going against Pakistan. Batting high up also gives Clarke a chance to bat for a long period against what is likely to be a spin-heavy attack, and he is the best equipped of Australia's batsmen to handle such bowling.
Pakistan have taken a 16-man squad for the ODIs but there was no room for Umar Gul or Younis Khan, while Kamran Akmal was brought back into the side. The exact make-up of the attack remains uncertain, but the coach Dav Whatmore indicated they would rely largely on the slow bowlers. "We are going to bowl more spin than the quicks," Whatmore said, "and it's important that we do that well."
Pakistan (squad) Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal (wk), Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Aizaz Cheema, Saeed Ajmal, Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik, Abdur Rehman, Junaid Khan, Anwar Ali
Australia have made one change from the side that beat Afghanistan, leaving out their frontline spinner Xavier Doherty. The allrounder Daniel Christian will take his place, meaning plenty of seam-bowling options for Michael Clarke, while the spin duties will be shared by Glenn Maxwell, David Hussey and Clarke himself. It remains to be seen whether Matthew Wade will open or be moved down the order to give him some respite from the heat.
Australia 1 Matthew Wade (wk), 2 David Warner, 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 David Hussey, 6 George Bailey, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Daniel Christian, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 James Pattinson
Pitch and conditionsThe humid conditions allowed Australia's fast bowlers to extract plenty of swing at the same venue against Afghanistan, but Pakistan's spinners should also find the conditions to their liking. The temperature, even late at night, is not expected to fall below 33C.
Stats and trivia
"Australia have had a retirement or two and an injury so I suppose we can have an edge to start with."
Dav Whatmore, the coach of Pakistan
"Both teams are keen to get some consistency, I guess, back into the one-day game. I think Pakistan are a lot like Australia in the fact that they have a lot of talent - it's just about performing consistently."
Australia's captain Michael Clarke
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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