Pakistan have a reputation for being unpredictable on the cricket field and so it has proven once again in this World Cup, as after three games, Sarfaraz Ahmed’s team have a record of one win, one defeat and one no-result, which leaves them right in the middle of the pack.
There was little that they could do about the washed-out third game against Sri Lanka at Bristol, but their opening two games showcased the worst and the best of Pakistan cricket. Taking on the West Indies in the tournament’s second game, they collapsed in the face of some hostile short-pitched bowling from Oshane Thomas and Andre Russell, registering 105 runs in failing to reach the half-way stage; a total that the West Indies knocked off in under 14 overs.
With expectations suitably lowered, Pakistan came out in their next game against England as big underdogs, which is often the way they like it. Strengthening their batting line-up with the addition of Asif Ali and Shoaib Malik, they set a challenging total of 348, then managed to contain the world’s most explosive batting line-up, eventually winning by 14 runs.
Predicting which Pakistan will turn up to Wednesday’s game against Australia at Taunton is therefore a tricky business, and Australia will certainly be on their guard, despite having won two of their three games so far, leaving them sharing fourth spot in the table at the end of the weekend.
The Aussies didn’t have to work too hard in their opener, beating Afghanistan by seven wickets, and they had to dig deep to see off a determined West Indies side in their second outing, which they did thanks to a contribution of 92 by Nathan Coulter-Nile and a five-wicket haul from Mitchell Starc. Those results, combined with their strong form coming into the tournament, which included a 3-2 series win in India help to explain why they are clear favourites to win this game. BetCris rate the Australians as the -275 favourites, with Pakistan odds-against at +211.
But there will be concerns in the Australian camp about the way they folded in their third game at the weekend, when they conceded 352 to India and were bowled out 36 runs short with the final ball of the contest. Totals of 288 and 316 in their two games against Test-class opponents suggest that, despite the return of Steve Smith and David Warner to the line-up after their ball-tampering ban, the Australians are still lagging behind the likes of England and India when it comes to recording the mammoth totals that have become common in the modern fifty-over game.
They will also expect more from their back-up bowlers; Glenn Maxwell, Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis, who have so far failed to exercise the control that the coaching staff would like to support the front-line quicks. Australia may be favourites going into this game, but they have their share of weaknesses and it would be no surprise to see Pakistan push them hard.