Pakistan registered an impressive win in Melbourne    Getty Images
Pakistan registered an impressive win in Melbourne Getty Images

Pakistan have raised hopes of a better finish to the Australian sojourn with their historic victory in the second ODI at Melbourne. It was after more than 11 years that Pakistan registered a win in Australia across formats, and the victory came on the back of some strong all-round performance. Pakistan s strategy of stifling the Australian batsmen with strict lines around the wickets paid off for the second consecutive time, and the visitors showed a lot of character while chasing a modest total in the second game. The series is currently levelled at 1-1, and the team that wins the third contest will inch closer to the ultimate goal.

The visitors proved that they have enough firepower to tame the high-flying Australians in their backyard, who entered the five-match ODI series having won all of their last 7 matches across formats. Pakistan s win in the second game was their first in Australia since January 2005 when they last trumped the hosts in their backyard. Interestingly, the venue of that win was WACA, Perth, where Pakistan have won 4 out of the 6 games they have played against Australia. However, Australia have beaten Pakistan in the last 2 contests at WACA a fact which sets up the ODI on Thursday pretty well.

FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Pakistan vs Australia, 3rd ODI at Perth

Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Irfan had returned home before the ODI series began. As of now, they remain unavailable along with Azhar Ali. Pakistan may be tempted to bring in Wahab Riaz for Hasan Ali, but the poor form of the senior pacer does not warrant any change in the winning team from Melbourne ODI. Let s take a look at Pakistan s likely XI for the third ODI:

Top-order: Mohammad Hafeez is set to continue as the stand-in captain for Azhar, who suffered a hamstring pull in the first game and missed the second ODI. Hafeez, apart from the lifeline which he received from Steven Smith in the first over of Pakistan s chase in Melbourne, looked impeccable. He started off slowly, but utilised the chance of scoring big, and went on to notch up a match-winning knock of 72. Sharjeel Khan will be keen to convert starts into big scores, as he is guilty of missing out for the last two games. Babar Azam too has made impressive beginnings, but Pakistan will like more runs from their star No. 3 who is not very far from the three tons which he got on the trot against West Indies.

Middle-order: Shoaib Malik played the role of a finisher when Hafeez departed with still a lot to do, in Melbourne. Malik did not feature in the first ODI at Brisbane, but he showed rich form in the second game which will raise Pakistan s hope going further into the series. He must be sent up in the order keeping in mind the current form. Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan, Asad Shafiq and even Imad Wasim are guilty of not making their starts count so far, and Pakistan will want these men to pounce upon the opportunity of making further progress in this series.

Lower-order: Pakistan may be excited with the opportunity of drafting Wahab Riaz back in the side on a bouncy and pace-friendly wicket at the WACA, but it will be daft to tinker with the current bowling line-up a lot. Maybe, Pakistan can think of having three pacers in Wahab, Mohammad Aamer and Junaid Khan, combined with Imad as the only specialist spinner. Wahab can get in the playing XI in place of Hasan Ali, which is going to be an extremely tough call considering the latter has taken 4 wickets so far in 2 games. Wahab had featured in the first ODI, but he bowled poorly at The Gabba, giving away 42 runs in 6 wicketless overs.

Pakistan s likely XI for 3rd ODI: Mohammad Hafeez (c), Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Imad Wasim, Mohammad Aamer, Hasan Ali / Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan.