Team Pakistan have to be spot-on against Australia who have the winning momentum on their side    Getty Images
Team Pakistan have to be spot-on at Sydney against Australia who have the winning momentum on their side Getty Images

Australia and Pakistan are set to face-off in the third and final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). While Australia have taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, Pakistan have nothing but pride to play for now. Pakistan have already lost five Tests in a row, which include one against West Indies, two against New Zealand and as many against Australia in this series. They have, however, never lost six in a row. With SCG being conducive to spin, Australia have named two spinners in the side. It will be Steve O Keefe, who will partner Nathan Lyon in this match. Also, all-rounder Hilton Cartwright will make his Test debut in this match. O Keefe and Cartwright will replace Jackson Bird and Nic Maddinson respectively.

Full Cricket Scorecard: Pakistan vs Australia 3rd Test at Sydney

Cartwright has been excellent with both bat and ball for Western Australia so far. He averages over 44 with the bat and his medium pacers are more than handy as well. He will be bowling alongside Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc. Maddinson, on the other hand, has scored just 27 runs in his 4 Test innings. Bird s axing is a bit hard to digest as he has picked up 10 wickets in the series, just 2 behind Starc. Like Australia, Pakistan too might play a couple of spinners in the side. Other than their regular spinner Yasir Shah, they also have left-arm orthodox bowler Mohammad Nawaz on the bench. But the spotlight will remain on Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq.

He had hinted that he may not play this Test after his side took a drubbing at Melbourne as he believes in stepping aside if he is not contributing to the side s cause. But Misbah took a u-turn, and said his comments post the defeat at Melbourne were reactions in anger and frustration, and he is not retiring anytime soon.

Misbah s last 5 scores in Tests read 0, 11, 5 4 and 13. These figures tell a very poor story of someone who averages over 46 in Test cricket. Pakistan do not play a Test till April-May 2017 when they visit the Caribbean to take on the West Indies. Misbah s future, one way or the other, could be decided after the SCG Test.

Younis Khan too has not been in great form. After a horrible series against New Zealand and a golden duck in his first innings this series, he has somehow redeemed himself with scores 65, 21 and 24 in his next three innings. But Pakistan would certainly want more from Younis in this match if they are to win this game and put smiles on the faces of Pakistan fans.

This is Australia s last Test series before they head off to India to play a four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Australia seem like they will not leave any stone unturned as they are likely to practice in Dubai on turning tracks ahead of the series. But, they cannot be thinking that far. Steven Smith s men have finally strung some wins under their belts and cannot get distracted by thinking far ahead. Their focus has to be on this game alone for now. Smith was under pressure after losing the Test series against South Africa, but he and his Australian side have bounced back well against Pakistan. Smith himself has led from the front, having scored 358 runs in 3 innings at 179.

This will be Smith s 50th Test, having made his debut as a leg-spinner at Lord s against Pakistan in 2010. He is today the No. 1 Test batsman in the world, with 17 tons and a batting average of over 60 to his name.

As far as the bowling department is concerned, Starc with 12 scalps so far is leading the way. Wahab Riaz with 7 scalps has been Pakistan s leading wicket-taker, yet remains one of Pakistan s biggest worries. His consistency in overstepping have many a time in the past, including the previous match, have cost Pakistan. They would hope that there are none of such incidents in this match as they look to win their first Test in 6 attempts.

The spinners might have the final say in this match. If the match was solely to be decided on how well the spinners bowl, Pakistan would be favourites. But we have seen Starc bowl exceedingly well in tough conditions like Sri Lanka. He along with the two Australian spinners, could turn the match in their favour, which may give them a 3-0 whitewash.

Squads:

Australia (Playing XI): Steven Smith (c), David Warner, Matthew Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Hilton Cartwright, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Starc, Steve O’Keefe, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.

Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Imran Khan, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Rahat Ali, Sami Aslam, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Sharjeel Khan, Sohail Khan, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Younis Khan.

TIME: 23.30 GMT (-1 Day) | 05.00 IST | 10.30 Local