DUBAI

Pakistan's ODI series against Australia being played in UAE represents an important milestone in their preparation for the 2015 World Cup. A lacklustre performance here could mean more pressure on Misbah-ul-Haq to be removed, whilst a miraculous victory could do wonders for the fortunes and morale of the Pakistan ODI squad.

Pakistan and Australia last played each other in an ODI series over two years ago when Australia won the 3 match ODI series in the UAE 2-1. Saeed Ajmal was one of the key performers for Pakistan in that series taking a total of 10 wickets in the 3 games. His absence will surely be detrimental for Pakistan and the only backup plan for the team in the young untested left-arm spinner Raza Hassan.

An interesting observation from that series two years ago is that out of a total 22 wickets taken by Pakistani bowlers 17 were taken by spinners and the remaining 5 by an in-form Junaid Khan. The problem for Pakistan is that neither is Junaid Khan in-form anymore nor does the bowling line-up contain any experienced spinners. A lot will depend on the young debutant however, if news of bouncy tracks is true then Pakistan are well prepared in the form of Junaid, Wahab, Irfan and Anwar Ali.

Anwar Ali will be an interesting player to look out for. He’s given some decent all round performances in the previous few series he has played in but nothing to help him sustain a long-run within Pakistan’ ODI side. He’s being given another chance here to show what he can do.

For Australia, their main performer from the previous time the two sides met was Starc. If recent performances are anything to go Starc won’t be as much of a threat as he was in the previous series. An aging Johnson had a so-so series against South Africa and Maxwell was hardly effective against the Pakistani batsmen on turning pitches during the previous series and with Marsh now also being in doubt for the series the bowling line up for Australia does not look as formidable however, Australia has always managed to pack a few surprises and we might just see a couple in the form of Kane Richardson and Nathan Lyon.

It is rather difficult to analyze Pakistan’s batting because of the unpredictability factor. You never know which side will show up. The key batsmen for Pakistan in the previous ODI series against Australia were Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq and Mohammed Hafeez. Jamshed is obviously not in the squad for Pakistan whereas, both Hafeez and Shafiq put in some decent performances against Sri Lanka and one would hope they could carry their form into this series as well. In my opinion though, the key batsmen for Pakistan would be Ahmed Shahzad, Fawad Alam and obviously the ever controversial Umar Akmal. These three players have it within them to single handedly change the course of the game.

Australia are without a doubt a formidable batting side. They usually bat deep and can be dangerous even 6 or 7 down. The player to look out for would be Maxwell who can be quite the destroyer for them down the order. In addition, Warner and Finch can all be dangerous on their day as well.

Overall, Australia are definitely the favorites for this series. Pakistan are still trying to figure out who their best 11 are and are too inconsistent. Australia do have the potential weaknesses within their middle order and their bowling which Pakistan should look to exploit if they want to gain anything from this series.

The complete series kicks off with the obligatory Only T20I on Sunday at Dubai, before the ODI series begins in Sharjah with the 1st ODI on October 7th, followed by 2 others in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on October 10th and Oct 12 respectively.

PAKISTAN: Shahid Afridi (capt), Ahmed Shahzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Sohaib Maqsood, Awais Zia, Saad Naseem, Raza Hasan, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Bilwalal Bhatti, Anwar Ali, Sohail Tanvir.

AUSTRALIA: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Phil Hughes, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Sean Abbott, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Steve O'Keefee, Nathan Lyon,Cameron Boyce.