Pakistan wait on Azhar's fitness ahead of MCG fixture

Match facts

January 15, 2017
Start time 1420 local (0320 GMT)

Big picture

Barely an hour into the first ODI at the Gabba on Friday, Pakistan looked well placed to secure their first win over Australia in Australia in any format since 2005. In the 17th over, the hosts had stumbled to 5 for 78 - David Warner and Steven Smith had gone in the fifth over of the game. But Australia's batting order is about as long as Billy Stanlake, and a remarkable rebuild was led by Matthew Wade and Glenn Maxwell. Australia's 9 for 268 proved not only competitive but enough to set up a 92-run victory.

It was an opportunity missed for Pakistan, who now head to the MCG on Sunday down 0-1 in the five-ODI series. Adding to their woes, they could be without their captain Azhar Ali, who sustained a hamstring injury during the Brisbane game. Though Azhar is yet to be ruled out of Sunday's match, if he is unavailable then Pakistan face not only a reworking of their top order but a decision over who should lead the side. Vice-captain Sarfraz Ahmed flew home for personal reasons ahead of the first match, which could leave Mohammad Hafeez or Shoaib Malik thrust into the leadership in a stand-in capacity.

Form guide

Australia: WWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Pakistan: LWWWW

In the spotlight

At the Gabba on Friday, Travis Head sent down 10 overs of his offspin for a miserly 28 runs - never before in his one-day career had he delivered his full allocation. In fact, Head has been such a part-timer at the level below that in 16 ODIs he has bowled far more overs than in the remainder of his 33 List A games combined. If Australia can continue to get value from Head with the ball, it will make him an especially attractive prospect across formats. At the Gabba he also moved up to open the batting for the first time in ODIs, and made a run-a-ball 39.

Imad Wasim impressed at the Gabba, where his left-arm spin troubled Australia's batsmen and he picked up 2 for 35 from his 10 overs. A valuable lower-order batsman with a first-class double-century to his name, he also chipped in with 29 in Pakistan's ultimately unsuccessful chase, making him the second top scorer behind Babar Azam.

Team news

Josh Hazlewood was rested for the first ODI but is likely to come in for the second game, possibly for Billy Stanlake, who appeared physically troubled at times during his debut in Brisbane. Adam Zampa may also come into consideration, though with Travis Head having bowled 10 tight overs of spin at the Gabba and Glenn Maxwell also in the XI, the legspinner could be surplus to requirements.

Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Travis Head, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Chris Lynn, 5 Mitchell Marsh, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Josh Hazlewood.

Azhar Ali struggled with a hamstring problem during the Gabba match and said after the game that he would have to wait until being assessed on Saturday before his availability for the second ODI was known. Shoaib Malik missed the first match due to illness but if ruled fit for Melbourne would likely come in for Mohammad Nawaz.

Pakistan (possible) 1 Azhar Ali/Asad Shafiq, 2 Sharjeel Khan, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Babar Azam, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Hasan Ali.

Pitch and conditions

The drop-in pitches at the MCG can be a little two-paced, but big runs can still be on offer. In last month's Chappell-Hadlee ODI at the venue, David Warner smashed 156, though no other batsman in the game passed 40. The forecast for Sunday is for a partly cloudy day and a top of 23C.

Stats and trivia

  • Australia have won their past nine ODIs at the MCG, last losing there to Sri Lanka in March 2012

  • At no ground has Mitchell Starc taken more ODI wickets than the MCG, where he has picked up 17 at 14.23

  • In the first game at the Gabba, Matthew Wade became just the second Australian (James Faulkner was the other) to score an ODI hundred from outside the top six. The feat has been achieved only 14 times worldwide