Pakistan seek better support for Babar Azam to counter red-hot Australia

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PERTH: Rain in Sydney not only robbed Australia of the chance to complete a T20 series victory over Pakistan in the space of two matches, it also meant that the hosts will not be able to overtake Babar Azam’s team as the world’s No. 1 ranked T20I team with a win in the final match in Perth – the tourists will cling on by a single point even in defeat.

But there remains plenty to play for, not least the series itself, and also the continuing road towards a now imminent Test series between the two teams, beginning in Brisbane in a couple of weeks’ time. Pakistan still appears very much in acclimatising mode, having run into an Australian side committing serious mental and physical energy to T20 international matches for the first time since the 2016 global event – next year’s on home soil being the first of two in as many years.

While Australia will have to rebalance their bowling attack somewhat, in the absence of Pat Cummins as he freshens up ahead of the Tests, there has been a strong sense of cohesion about the hosts’ approach, either attacking from the top through Aaron Finch and David Warner or letting Steven Smith direct traffic for the middle order in the event of an early wicket or two. With the ball and in the field, the Australians have not quite been as stingy as the Perth Scorchers at their best, but they are tracking that way both in terms of tight bowling combinations and predatory work to cut off runs and seek run-outs.

Pakistan offered some signs of hope at Manuka Oval, not least the aggression of Iftikhar Ahmed as some long-awaited help for Babar, but also a little more cutting edge to their bowling line-up. The additional bounce on offer at Perth Stadium, where Australia’s ODI team was well beaten by South Africa at the start of last summer, has the potential to bring the visitors still further into the game, should they get their lengths right.

The decision to rest Cummins for the final match of the series suggests a possible return to the side for Sean Abbott, though Billy Stanlake is also waiting in the wings.

PITCH AND CONDITIONS:

The Perth Stadium pitch can be expected to be fast and bouncy, with a hot day forecast for Perth – temperatures are expected to be around 33C about the time of the first ball at 4.30pm local time.