Ahmed Shehzad (left) needs to fire at the top of the order for Pakistan in the 1st ODI against Australia © AFP

Pakistan will take on the Australians in the first match of their three-game One-Day International (ODI) series at the Sharjah International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. Devarchit Varma brings the key battles that are on cards for this clash. 

Australia made a rollicking start to their tough tour of United Arab Emirates (UAE) when they thrashed Pakistan in the only T20 International (T20I) last week. The win would have given Australia much-needed momentum on this all-important tour, whereas a disappointing performance would have served Pakistan a notice. They haven’t been playing up to their potential of late and a poor show in the T20I game — a format in which most of the current Pakistan cricketers specialise in — would have let them down.

However, Pakistan would aim to put behind the disappointment and start afresh as they have been boosted with the return of Misbah-ul-Haq in their batting ranks. The batting department is not as worrisome for them as the bowling is, as the absence of Saeed Ajmal (and Mohammad Hafeez) will be felt strongly. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the likely key battles in the match:

Ahmed Shehzad vs Mitchell Johnson: Shehzad had a good outing in India during the Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2014 and he would be aiming to continue the good run. He is enjoying a good run with the bat and has been crucial for Pakistan at the top of the order. He will be facing tough challenge against Mitchell Johnson, who can not only terrify with the pace but also his ability to create pressure from one end. Johnson is returning from injury layout and he would be eager to get into the groove soon.



Misbah-ul-Haq vs Nathan Lyon: The Pakistan captain is an excellent player of spin and Australia’s leading spinner, Nathan Lyon, will be given a good challenge. Lyon can not only turn the ball sharply but his action also allows him to deliver the ball at a good pace and generate bounce. The tracks in UAE are meant for him in case Pakistan as the home side doctor the wickets, and Lyon should emerge more strong by the end of this month-long tour.

Shahid Afridi vs Mitchell Starc: Afridi revels in the shorter formats and he would aim to bounce back after the defeat that his side suffered in the T20I game. It is important for Pakistan to start their build-up for the ICC World Cup 2015 from this series and Afridi in the lower-middle order occupies a critical spot. However, he will be up against Starc’s accuracy and cunning variations.

Umar Akmal vs James Faulkner: Both men can be excellent for their sides on their days. Umar is coming off from a good outing in the CLT20 and he would be raring to continue the good work. He bats in the lower-middle order and can occupy the crease for long spans and also accelerate whenever needed. Faulkner, who is likely to bowl towards the end of the innings, will be facing tough challenge against Umar.

David Warner vs Mohammad Irfan: Warner smashed a fine half-century in the T20I game, indicating that he is in a good form at the moment. Warner’s presence in the top of the order provides Australia a chance to get off to strong starts, and as the strike bowler for Pakistan, Irfan will be required to keep the Australian batsman in control.

Glenn Maxwell vs Shahid Afridi: Maxwell can destroy the best of the bowling attacks on his days and it will be important for Pakistan to have Maxwell not among the run-scorers. In the absence of Ajmal (and Hafeez) Afridi can prove to be a potent weapon against Maxwell as the variety with which the Pakistani T20 captain bowls provides a unique feature in their bowling attack.

Complete coverage of Pakistan and Australia in UAE here

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)