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September 7, 2012
The first game was dominated by Pakistan's outstanding bowlers, especially the spin of Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and the debutant Raza Hasan, although the fast men Sohail Tanvir and Umar Gul were also very effective. They bowled Australia out for 89, their second lowest T20 total of all time, and the chase was a doddle. Again, Pakistan's bowlers will be a handful for Australia's long batting line-up. The big boundaries at Dubai won't help, and Australia will need far more than the three fours they struck in the first game if they are to avoid losing the series in this match. More than anything they need runs from the top order but worryingly David Warner is struggling for form, having scored at less than a run a ball in all three ODIs against Pakistan and the first T20, with a top score of 24.
As much as this match is about a series being up for grabs, it's another chance for both sides to prepare for the ICC World Twenty20, to be held in Sri Lanka later this month. Pakistan can be pleased with where they are placed, although it wouldn't be a bad thing if their batsmen were either set a heftier chase or given a chance to bat first, to give them a more intense time in the middle.
Australia must put their thrashing in the first game behind them and realise that in the shortest format, one piece of individual brilliance can be enough to turn a team's form around. They have made three changes to the bowling group but it is in the batting order that they need a lift. If they don't, they risk entering the World T20 ranked tenth in the world - behind Ireland. And what's below a minnow in the food chain? Krill? Algae?
Form guide (Complete matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
In his first international match for two and a half years, Imran Nazir scored 22 from 26 balls in Pakistan's small chase. He slapped a couple of boundaries away through the leg side and showed glimpses of the form that helped him force his way back into the side. Pakistan will be keen for Nazir, who opened the batting with Mohammad Hafeez, to have a couple of good hits in the next two matches ahead of the ICC World Twenty20.
More than 16 years after he first played for Australia, Brad Hogg is enjoying a renaissance brought about by T20. A revelation in the Big Bash League for the Perth Scorchers last summer, Hogg was recalled to the national side with the specific aim of taking him to the World T20 in Sri Lanka's spinning conditions. Hogg is 41 but still has his ability to turn the ball and uses his canny variations effectively, and he will enjoy the challenge of taking on Pakistan's batsmen.
Pakistan's bowlers did the job on Wednesday and there seems little reason to change the winning side. Shahid Afridi appears likely to miss again due to his thumb injury.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Mohammad Hafeez (capt), 2 Imran Nazir, 3 Nasir Jamshed, 4 Kamran Akmal (wk), 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Raza Hasan, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Saeed Ajmal
Australia responded to their loss in the first match by making three changes, with Glenn Maxwell, Xavier Doherty and Ben Hilfenhaus all dropped. The allrounder Daniel Christian has been included, along with the spinner Brad Hogg and the fast bowler Mitchell Starc. It was the batsmen who let the side down in the first game but they played such a long batting line-up that there were no back-ups in the squad, and the selectors clearly believe the best policy is to give the batting group as much game time as possible ahead of the ICC World Twenty20.
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Michael Hussey, 4 David Hussey, 5 George Bailey (capt), 6 Cameron White, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Daniel Christian, 9 Brad Hogg, 10 Pat Cummins, 11 Mitchell Starc.
Pitch and conditionsDubai's pitch is again expected to assist the spinners. "There's no doubt that the wicket is only going to turn more," Shane Watson said ahead of the second game.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"In terms of the group we've got together and what we're capable of, it certainly hasn't altered my thoughts that we can still be a very good team."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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Plays of the day from the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab in Abu Dhabi