Australia haven’t swept a bilateral ODI series 5-0 since 2013, when they hosted West Indies, but they are well-placed to do so again when they meet Pakistan in the final one-day international in Dubai on Sunday, 31 March.
Pakistan’s idea behind resting their seniors for this ODI series was to test their bench strength ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019. After four successive defeats, it’s apparent that the bench isn’t exactly brimming with vitality.
Pakistan are two completely different sides in the two shorter formats. They are ranked world No.1 on the ICC T20I Rankings, have a superlative record across conditions, and have a host of players who step up and get the job done. In ODIs, they are ranked No.6, have always blown hot and cold, and are unable to match the frenetic pace that the modern-day game demands.
Even by those standards, though, this series has been lopsided. It just isn’t characteristic of Pakistan to go down without a fight at home. They came the closest to picking up a win on Friday, with Abid Ali and Mohammad Rizwan making centuries, but still ended up falling six runs short of a 278-run target, having suffered a late meltdown.
Pakistan have had their share of centuries this series, but they have been isolated bright spots. Barring the third ODI, they’ve had at least one century in each of the other games. Their bowling has become more incisive as the series has progressed, but they have still not been able to hold Australia back from posting competitive totals.
Australia, meanwhile, are as well-balanced as they have been in recent memory. Their top order is prolific. Various members of their middle order are taking turns to prove their worth ahead of the World Cup. And their bowlers have held their own in the absence of the two senior pacemen, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. A 5-0 sweep is a very real possibility.
Rizwan is Pakistan’s highest scorer this series, with two centuries. He’s made those runs in tough situations – the first century coming after Pakistan had been reduced to 35/2 and the second from 74/2 in a tough chase of 278.
Australia captain Aaron Finch has hit peak form and looks unstoppable. This series has been quite the turnaround after a dismal start to the year. Nothing boosts a side’s confidence quite like a firing captain, which makes the return to form all the more crucial, ahead of a World Cup.
Totals of 250-plus should be par for the course in Dubai. The ground hasn’t really favoured batting first or second. In the last four completed matches, the team batting first has won once, the chasing team has won twice, while one match was tied. It’s going to be a hot Sunday afternoon, with temperatures expected to be around 33℃ at the start.