Cricket: Why Australia v Pakistan is nothing more than a “warm-up”

Australia celebrate over Pakistan in the 3rd ODI (photo: Getty Images)
Australia celebrate over Pakistan in the 3rd ODI (photo: Getty Images)

The entire series feels as though it is squeezed somewhere in between the start of the Australian season and the wrapping up of the Champions League Twenty20, just to keep the fans engaged.

Of course, this is not the case, and it is proving to be beneficial for a few of the Australian players.  Steve Smith registered his first one-day international century with some superb shots in the first of three matches in the series.  Mitchell Johnson bowled extremely well (6 wickets in 2 matches), showing he is more than ready for the upcoming series against South Africa and India.

At the same time, Pakistan is something of a rabble.  The captaincy is like clothes in a washing machine, spinning around and around until someone stops the cycle.  Shahid Afridi spoke after the third ODI, in which he took over from regular captain Misbah-ul-Haq, saying that his captaincy style is completely different, and that what they expect from Misbah should not be expected from him.

“Every captain has his own approach and I can’t be Misbah and Misbah can’t be Afridi.  If he is comfortable with his approach then what is the problem? But players around him should not become Misbah. Each player has his own strengths and he should carry out what he is capable of rather than suppressing himself.”

Australia knew they could pounce, and did.  The pitches that have been offered up are like a newly-surfaced highway; flat, hard and giving plenty to the big hitters who just want to put it over the boundary.

The first three matches were an embarrassment for Pakistan, as though Australia were playing a glorified practice game.  If the series hasn’t built confidence for some, it will soon enough.

However, despite the crushing victories, George Bailey played down the performance of the team after the ODI series cleansweep.  The World Cup gets underway in less than four months, on top of the upcoming test and one-day series at home, and matches such as the one-run victory on October 12 are a potential indication of what the Australians will face come February, said the stand-in skipper.

“To be honest, I don’t think we played our best cricket over here, appreciating the conditions are different and challenging and we worked hard to prepare for those.  The most pleasing thing, for my part, was the fact that we had to battle in every game.” 

“I think that’s the sort of stuff that will happen in World Cups in games that come to the crunch point and then you will have to absorb pressure and stand up and guys will have to deliver match-winning performances.”

If the squad is to be analysed further, the likes of Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson and Sean Abbott most likely won’t be seen in whites come the four test series against India.  Additionally, to emphasise Bailey’s words, the conditions in the United Arab Emirates are a far cry from those Down Under.  The stifling heat and very little shade at Sharjah and Dubai is a players’ nightmare.

Nevertheless, Australia’s highlights reel has been something to behold.  From Smith’s “waterbox wipeout” to David Warner’s marvellous hitting in the Twenty20, fans have not been disappointed.

The Pakistan squad was scared after losing Saeed Ajmal to an ICC ban for an illegal bowling action.  The tables turned in the visitors favour.   The subsequent results showed, and, in particular during the third ODI, some eyebrows were raised on social media after Pakistan lost two wickets in the final after, just two runs from the finish.

Smith’s slip-to-leg-slip catch was also legal, according to ICC laws.  Whatever the outcome of the test series, two things can come out of this short Australian tour to the UAE:

  • Because of the number of matches (excluding the tour match) is just six, players can really only “warm-up” before returning home.
  • Pakistan have a long way to go before they’re ready to come out to Australia for the World Cup.

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