SYDNEY     -    In his first assignment as Pakistan’s full-time Twenty20 International captain, Babar Azam has been tasked with stopping the juggernaut that is Australia at the moment, when they clash in the first of three T20Is in Sydney today (Sunday).

Azam, who was named Sarfaraz Ahmed’s successor as the new T20I captain after Pakistan’s 3-0 defeat at home against Sri Lanka, will want to make a strong impression in his first game as the side’s skipper. However, he will also be aware that winning against Australia, especially in their current form, will be no easy task.

Australia come into this series on the back of thumping 3-0 win against Sri Lanka. They won each of those games convincingly, and the hallmark of their win was that there were contributions from all corners. David Warner was especially brutal against Sri Lanka, scoring over 200 runs in the series without being dismissed once. Aaron Finch, their captain, and Steve Smith were among the runs as well, while the bowling attack fired collectively.

Pakistan will hope that the youngsters, including the uncapped fast bowler Muhammad Musa, play to their potential and breathe fresh life into their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2020 ambitions. When the teams last squared off in T20Is in October 2018, things were vastly different. Australia, still finding their feet in the absence of the suspended Smith and Warner, were humbled 3-0 in the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan were in brilliant form then, and boasted of a team worthy of the No.1 spot on the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s T20I Team Rankings. In fact, Pakistan are still top of the rankings charts, and will quickly want to return to winning ways in the shortest format.

A thunderstorm is forecast in the afternoon, and the temperature isn’t expected to cross 30 degrees. The pitch at Sydney has traditionally been good for batting, but it can also offer something for the spinners.

“They’ve got such a well-rounded attack. You’ve obviously got the height, bounce and pace of (Mohammad) Irfan. Then you’ve got (Mohammad) Amir, who is fast and can swing it. Very skillful. Then you have (Wahab) Riaz with all out pace, who can spray them around at times, but when he gets his line and length right, he’s lethal.

Then you have Shadab (Khan), who is a world-class leg-spinner who can mix it up a lot. Mohammad Hasnain is genuine pace with his right-armers, we saw him in the UAE earlier this year. He’s got some real pace,” said Australia captain Aaron Finch.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam said: “We’ve got a plan ready for David Warner. He’s one of Australia’s really good batsmen. We have our front line bowlers, we have a strategy ready for David. Obviously, once he gets going, he gets going, but we have a strategy in place for all facets.”

SQUADS:

AUSTRALIA: David Warner, Aaron Finch (capt), Steven Smith, Ben McDermott, Ashton Turner, Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson.

PAKISTAN: Babar Azam (capt), Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz.