“It may be a blessing in disguise,” said Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz while speaking to the commentators during the fourth over of Australia’s innings in the first T20I on Sunday. Wahab was referring to the pouring rain that had forced play to stop at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
The rain didn’t halt thereafter and a result wasn’t possible as five overs weren’t completed in Australia’s innings for the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method to come into effect. And with that, we turn to Manuka Oval, Canberra for the second T20I with the series score still reading 0-0.
At the time when the match was stopped in Sydney, Australia were 41/0 after just 3.1 overs. Chasing a target of 119 from 15 overs, this should have been a cakewalk for the hosts, especially considering the form captain Aaron Finch displayed during his brief stay in the middle.
In 16 balls, Finch smashed 37 and looked in ominous form. He was disappointed with the way the match had ended, especially considering there was a 20-minute break between the two innings despite time already having been lost due to rain earlier.
Speaking to broadcaster Fox Sports after the match, Finch said: “If you’re cutting overs off the game and you still have a 20-minute break, it doesn’t make much sense to me. When you lose a few overs and then you still have a 20-minute break, I thought that was really interesting. But it’s part of the rules and you can’t do much about it.”
It’s easy to understand the Australian skipper’s frustration and this is one rule that has come under severe criticism in the past too and it’s about time the International Cricket Council (ICC) make amends.
On the pitch, as mentioned above, Finch was in blazing touch. What’s interesting to note is the right-handed opener’s fondness for left-arm pace. He has faced 146 deliveries from left-arm pacers in T20Is and has been dismissed just once while scoring 247 runs. If you consider all T20 matches, then he averages more against left-arm pace (52.3) than any other bowling type as well.
In the first T20I, Pakistan played an all left-arm pace attack with Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz. So, it’ll be interesting to see if the visitors stick with the same line-up or bring in either Mohammad Hasnain or Muhammad Musa for Irfan who conceded 26 off his second over on Sunday.
For Pakistan, in the batting department, it was recently-appointed captain Babar Azam who shone once again at the SCG. The 25-year-old notched up his 11th fifty in just 20 T20I innings since the start of 2018. And he will be looking for more support come Tuesday (November 5).
Wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan was Pakistan’s second highest run-getter on Sunday, scoring 31. His boundaries against Adam Zampa to unsettle the bowler during the Powerplay were the highlights of his innings, but the issue with his knock was that it took 33 deliveries. When you bat for over a fourth of the team’s innings, you should be scoring at a much higher rate. But Rizwan’s career stats don’t inspire much confidence.
In 11 T20I innings, he has a batting strike rate of just 99.40. When it comes to his overall T20 career, his strike rate is 116.00 – a much better number, but still far from ideal. In T20s played in 2019, that figure has slightly dropped to 113.11 which needs significant improvement if he has to continue playing at number four at the international level.
Another area of concern for the Men in Green is the form of Fakhar Zaman. The left-handed batsman has simply failed to get going this year, managing just 48 runs from seven innings at an average of 6.85 in T20Is. On Sunday, he was dismissed for a first-ball duck and it’s imperative for him that he sees off the first over against Mitchell Starc who has a knack of picking up wickets up front.
In fact, in the three T20Is that Starc has played over the last 10 days against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, he has taken a wicket in the first over every single time. The left-arm pacer has good company in Pat Cummins and Kane Richardson with the trio forming a formidable pace bowling line-up. Playing besides two illustrious names, Richardson has gone under the radar and has been very economical, conceding just 5.6 runs per over in his last four matches.
The only worry for Australia in the first T20I was Adam Zampa whom Pakistan’s batsmen took a liking to. He conceded 30 runs from his three overs, which resulted in his most expensive T20I spell. With a career economy rate of 6.07 in T20Is, the Australian think-tank shouldn’t be too fazed by this as this is likely to be the exception rather than the rule going by his past performances.
Despite coming into Sunday’s game having lost their previous five T20Is against Pakistan, Australia were clearly the better side. But they couldn’t make the advantage count due to factors not in their control. On Tuesday in Canberra, Finch’s side will be hopeful of making it count and securing a rare win against the Men In Green whom they have defeated just once in T20Is since the 2016 World T20.
Huge changes aren’t expected, but it won’t be a surprise if either Billy Stanlake for Australia and/or Mohammad Hasnain for Pakistan get a game.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Ben McDermott, Ashton Turner, Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan/Mohammad Hasnain, Wahab Riaz.