SYDNEY: Pakistan are set to be boosted by the return of captain Azhar Ali for their must-win clash in the fourth One-day International against Australia in Sydney on Sunday.
The skipper missed the second and third matches of the ODI series due to a hamstring injury but he completed a fitness test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SGC) on Saturday and is expected to resume his place in the side.
Asad Shafiq, Pakistan’s batting hero in the first Test in Brisbane last month, is the most likely player to make way if Azhar is passed fit.
Coach Mickey Arthur and Australian physio Shane Hayes watched on as Azhar appeared to cruise through a 15-minute fitness test on the SCG outfield in the afternoon.
“He’s done all the rehab and everything,” bowling coach Azhar Mahmood said before the skipper’s fitness test. “He’s pretty much sure he’ll play and the physio is sure he will play.”
Asad, a mainstay of Pakistan’s Test side, averages less than 25 from 60 One-day Internationals and managed scores of just 13 and five against Australia in the past week.
The right-hander averages 41 in the longest form of the game and has 10 Test centuries to his name, nine of which came batting at number six in the order, the most of any player in history from that position.
But he’s been unable to translate that ability into the 50-over game and has played just seven ODIs in the past two years.
“Asad is a quality player, there’s no doubt about that,” former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar said. “It’s just a matter of being consistent in the one-day side.
“He’s been playing in Test match cricket and is settled at number six and he’s done wonders for Pakistan cricket.
“In terms of one-day cricket, he has to play more consistently … and get his numbers right.”
Australia are expected to make at least one change for the match with Mitchell Starc re-joining the squad in Sydney after he was rested from the third game of the series in Perth.
The hosts could also call on leg-spinner Adam Zampa on a surface that traditionally favours spin more than most around the country.
Pakistan’s bowling coach knows Zampa well having played with him at the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League and said the Pakistan batsmen would look to unsettle the 24 year old.
“He’s a quality bowler … I rate him highly and he’s done really well,” Azhar said of Zampa. “If he plays, we play spin well so we need to rotate the strike against him and not give him any wickets.
“We were 30 or 40 runs short in the last game. We know that and the players are really confident they can turn the tables tomorrow.”
Australia lead the five-match series 2-1 meaning Pakistan must avoid defeat on Sunday to stay alive in the series which concludes on Thursday in Adelaide.
AUSTRALIA: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith (captain), Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, James Faulkner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis.
PAKISTAN: Sharjeel Khan, Azhar Ali (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Asad Shafiq.
Umpires: Mick Martell (Australia) and Chris Gaffaney (New Zealand).
TV umpire: Chettithody Shamshuddin (India).
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand).
courtesy : dawn news