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September 5, 2012
The ICC's rankings would suggest that Pakistan (6th) and Australia (9th) will be competing for the minor placings at the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka that follows this series. Yet the talent and aggression contained within both sides is considerable, and will be on full display over the next three matches in Dubai as Mohammad Hafeez and George Bailey, the two captains, decide on their best T20 combinations before the big tournament.
Pakistan's best in the format has been proven good enough to lift the world title, as proven over a joyous three weeks in England in 2009. At the last tournament in the West Indies they looked good for another tilt, only to be humbugged by an extraordinary innings from Michael Hussey as Australia scraped their way into the final, ultimately lost to England. Since then Cricket Australia have taken an increasingly serious look at T20, reflected in how the workloads of several players have been managed to have them building up to a peak over the next month.
The ODI series that preceded these games was narrowly won by Australia, but the T20 side is not that of Michael Clarke. Bailey has plenty to live up to over the next three matches, not least the need for him to put a stamp on the captaincy with his bat, which so far has yielded a grand total of 60 runs and a highest score of 24. Hafeez is also seeking to make the role his own, having shared his first series with Sri Lanka earlier in the year. He is adamant that there is more to his team than the spin wiles of Saeed ajmal, and the next three matches will provide a chance to prove it to the world and themselves ahead of the World T20.
Form guide (Complete matches, most recent first)
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The omission of Umar Gul from the ODI team was a talking point, and his absence left the Pakistan attack looking a little too over reliant on spin, even if the slow bowlers called on were all of high quality. He is back in the team for the T20s and will be looking to add some fire and swing to the team, as well as the yorkers he is so capable of delivering in the shortest format. Australia's batsmen will be wary of Gul, who took 4 for 8 against them on this ground in 2009, though they will also hope he will be short of rhythm in his first few overs.
Having shown his fearlessness in his first international series, Glenn Maxwell will now have the chance to secure a spot for himself in the T20 team ahead of the world title bout in Sri Lanka. Maxwell's combination of power and composure was compelling during the series deciding ODI, and his ability to attack the spinners with conviction should serve him well again here. Pakistan had greater success against Maxwell's modest off spin, and it is in that discipline that the young allrounder will want to improve in these matches.
Umar Gul and Mohammad Sami will add a greater pace threat to the Pakistan team, while Imran Nazir's batting should also find a valued place in the XI.
Pakistan (squad) Mohammad Hafeez (capt), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal (wk), Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Arafat, Umar Akmal, Saeed Ajmal, Raza Hasan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami, Sohail Tanvir
Brad Hogg's wrist spin will add a dimension lacking from Australia's ODI combination, while the returns of Shane Watson and Pat Cummins add power and pace. Cameron White's chance of a place in the batting order may depend on the bowling balance chosen.
Australia (squad) David Warner, Shane Watson, Matthew Wade (wk), David Hussey, Michael Hussey, George Bailey (capt), Cameron White, Daniel Christian, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Hogg, Xavier Doherty, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Ben Hilfenhaus, Alister McDermott
Pitch and conditionsThe change of formats means more palatable playing hours for both sides, though it will not entirely rule out the emergence of dew as a factor in the second innings. Dubai's pitch has shown evidence of some pace and bounce in recent times, but its most abiding characteristics are helpfulness to spinners.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"We haven't really had a long time together as a Twenty20 team so it will be good playing Pakistan. We were unlucky on missing out on the [World T20] final the last time. This team has got good balance of youth and experience and on our day we can beat the best teams in the world."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala