Australia aim to limit Ajmal's impact
Australia's batsmen did enough to secure victory in the first ODI in Sharjah on Tuesday, but they know they will need to find a more convincing way to handle Saeed Ajmal throughout the rest of the tour. Ajmal struck with his first ball of the match and again in his second over, which left Australia in trouble at 67 for 4 chasing 199, and he finished with 3 for 30 from his ten overs.
George Bailey came to the crease after Ajmal's first two wickets and helped put Australia back on target with steady half-century, but at no point did any of the batsmen really get on top of Ajmal. He conceded only one boundary and Bailey said Australia would need to find a way to score more freely off Ajmal in the remaining matches to avoid getting bogged down.
"We could probably see him off a little better," Bailey told reporters after the match. "We knew he was going to be a key bowler and I think that's one of the real focuses we'll have going in to Abu Dhabi is how we play him, and try to milk him a little bit better and try not to give him his wickets.
"His control is good and we know he's a key bowler. Certainly towards the back end, after he'd taken his wickets, the key was just to see him out. If we scored runs off him that was great, if we didn't, that's okay, we'll just try to target the other bowlers. It's nice to have faced Ajmal a little more, get a better feel of how to play him. And it was nice to face all the bowlers who we haven't faced."
Mohammad Hafeez also proved a difficult customer for the Australian batsmen and having taken the new ball, it took him less than two overs to get rid of David Warner, who was bowled trying to slog across the line. Neither Warner nor his opening partner Matthew Wade had any real impact with the bat and Bailey said top-order partnerships would be important for Australia to win the series.
"With opening the batting there's responsibility," Bailey said. "We want Matty Wade and Davey Warner to be scoring hundreds for us. But we also know that their ball-striking can get us off to a flyer too. So there's a balance to be found there.
"The big thing that we'll take as a team is partnerships, particularly in the top order. If you look at teams that have had success over here the big partnerships and big scores come from the top order. That's a real focus for us."
The Australians were helped by the fact that their bowlers put in such a strong performance after Pakistan chose to bat, dismissing them for 198. Bailey said James Pattinson was almost the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 19, although it was Mitchell Starc who ended up with the best figures of 5 for 42. Starc said he was pleased with the results given that the conditions didn't offer much for the fast men.
"It's not helpful. There's not much seam movement out there," Starc said. "We're sticking to our plans. We're talking about it as a bowling group. I think we're all bowling really well as a group. I was lucky to get the wickets today but James Pattinson got 3 for 19 and bowled magnificently well as well. As a group I think we're doing well and then tonight with the bat we backed it up and got the job done in the end."
The three-match ODI series moves on to Abu Dhabi for the remaining two matches on Friday and Monday, before the three-match T20 series begins.