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September 3, 2012
Pakistan and Australia return to Sharjah for the third one-day international, which has become the series decider after Australia took the first match and Pakistan won the second. For Pakistan, this is a chance to end a decade-long era without a one-day series win over Australia. Last time they beat Australia was in 2002 and it was also the last time Pakistan came back from losing the first match in a three-game series to win. They will rely heavily on Saeed Ajmal, who has caused real problems for Australia's batsmen in the first two games and has taken seven of the 15 wickets collected by Pakistan bowlers so far, at the remarkable average of 8.85. The Australians will consider attacking Ajmal more in this game, but if they continue to misread his doosra it may make little difference.
Australia need more runs from their openers, Matthew Wade and David Warner, and they might be keen to take a more aggressive approach after Warner took 19 balls to get off the mark in the second game. They also need to work out the best make-up of their attack should Mitchell Starc be ruled out due to injury after he left the field late in the second match. Choosing a frontline spinner, Xavier Doherty, would not be a bad option, although if they end up bowling second and find the conditions as dewy as they were on Friday in Abu Dhabi, it might not matter. Both matches have been won by the team chasing and Michael Clarke is unlikely to make the mistake of batting first again should he win the toss.
Form guide (Complete matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
Saeed Ajmal has taken 7 for 62 in the series so far and is far and were in not for his fine work on Friday, the Australians could well have posted a much heftier total. His variations leave the Australians muddled, and after they chose to be cautious with him in the first two games they might be considering a different approach this time. "He's a fantastic bowler. But we have to change our game plan," David Hussey said on Sunday. "We're defending him a little bit and to our peril. Maybe the best form of defence is attacking him. We've seen the Sri Lankans play him, we've seen the Indians play him, and we might think that's the better route to go."
There is no question that Australia have found a dynamic and useful one-day player in Glenn Maxwell, but his challenge is to finish the series by displaying his all-round talents. He made 38 from 38 in the first game and a brisk 28 from 27 in the second game, which featured two mighty sixes. Both were impressive short-burst innings for an ODI No.7. But he is yet to take a wicket and by offering a little more with the ball he could help himself stay ahead of Steven Smith in the minds of the selectors.
Shahid Afridi missed the second match due to back soreness but is believed to be fit for the third game and a straight swap with Abdur Rehman seems the most likely scenario.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Nasir Jamshed, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Asad Shafiq, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Shahid Afridi, 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Junaid Khan
Mitchell Starc left the field late in the second ODI with what was later revealed to a problem with his side/chest and if he doesn't play, the Australians can bring in the uncapped Alister McDermott or one of the spinners, Xavier Doherty or Steven Smith, as his replacement. Doherty would appear the most likely candidate given the conditions and the lack a frontline spinner in their line-up in the first two games.
Australia (possible) 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/Xavier Doherty, 11 James Pattinson
Pitch and conditionsAfter the extremely dewy conditions in Abu Dhabi on Friday, the teams return to Sharjah for this third match. In the first two matches of the series it was the chasing team that emerged triumphant, so don't expect the captains to rush into a decision to bat first at the toss.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"We played really well and we fought really well in the first game in Sharjah so we can take some confidence into that."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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