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Sarfraz Ahmed came in after Nasir Jamshed’s poor run, for the penultimate league game against South Africa, a match Pakistan had to win to stay in the hunt for a quarterfinal place. Sarfraz made 49, Pakistan won the rain-interrupted fixture by 29 runs. In the next game against Ireland, a virtual pre-quarterfinal, Sarfraz made a hundred.
Sarfraz and Ahmed Shehzad hold the key to Pakistan’s fortunes as much as Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali and Sohail Khan do with the ball.
Michael Clarke’s team are past masters at doing the front-running, and with Mitchell Starc in such stunning form, the team fancy itself to make early inroads every single time. Sarfraz and Shehzad will have to recalibrate their approach to the new ball if they are to set the platform from which Misbah, Umar Akmal and Sohaib Maqsood can dictate terms.
Pakistan has played twice before in Adelaide in this World Cup, and has been in the South Australian capital for nearly 10 days now. Even though it is up against the host nation, it will not be short of support from either its travelling fans or from the expats who have now made Australia their home.
Australia has by and large been a pace-oriented attack, Xavier Doherty’s left-arm spin summoned only for the clash against Sri Lanka in the belief that the SCG surface might assist the spinners.
The biggest gains in the last few days have been Clarke’s occupation of the crease, and Shane Watson rediscovering the runs on the SCG belter against Sri Lanka. At 5 or 6, Watson provides great muscle to the batting; at 3, Steven Smith provides steel and stability. It’s an awe-inspiring line-up with Brad Haddin at No. 8. For all its bowling wealth, Pakistan will rest a little uneasy.
Wahab has been the enforcer with Rahat and Sohail playing able foils; Shahid Afridi hasn’t hit wicket-taking mode but has been his usual pressure-building self, allowing the quicks to feed off his parsimony. If Misbah can work his combination around to bring back Yasir Shah, the legspinner, it will make the attack more menacing but might end up weakening the batting. A tricky call, that.