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Handscomb to make ODI debut as Pakistan bid for another win

PERTH: Middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb will make his limited overs debut for Australia against the resurgent Pakistan side in the third One-day International in Perth on Thursday.

Handscomb replaces the injured Mitchell Marsh after a highly successful introduction to Test cricket in which the 25-year-old scored two centuries and two fifties in his first four appearances in the recent series against South Africa and Pakistan.

“He’s done really well, he’s been outstanding. So good reward for a good summer,” Australian coach Darren Lehmann told reporters Wednesday. “Obviously we want four quality batters going at the top so he’ll get his chance there. He played a one-day style innings for us in the Sydney Test, so he’s got all the shots and he’s quite innovative.”

Fast bowler Billy Stanlake comes in for Mitchell Starc, who is being rested.

The hosts return to the WACA Ground aiming to avoid the kind of top-order wobble that punctuated the start of their Test campaign more than two months ago.

Australia’s last match in Perth, against South Africa in early November, featured a significant batting collapse of 10-86 as the Proteas stormed to a 1-0 series lead with victory by 177 runs.

The home side’s batting frailty was exposed even further in the following Test in Hobart, ripped out for just 85 and 161 to spark a wave of South African celebrations as well as Australian recriminations.

Steve Smith’s side has enjoyed mostly good tidings since then; an eight-match winning streak across all formats that only ended on Sunday in Melbourne when Pakistan recorded their first win on Australian soil in 12 years.

In all, Australia have won four of their five One-day Internationals on home soil this summer, despite losing their first four wickets for less than 100 on all but one occasion.

The previous four instances of Australia being four wickets down for less than 100 in ODIs at home came over a span of three summers and 23 matches, including their 2015 World Cup triumph.

Bailed out by Steve Smith against NZ in Sydney, David Warner against the Black Caps in Melbourne and then by Matthew Wade against Pakistan in Brisbane last Friday, no one was able to do so at the MCG last Sunday and the resulting total of just 220 was always going to be difficult to defend.

While Australia’s top order has looked fragile in the first two games of this series, credit must also go to a Pakistan bowling attack that has been led admirably by Mohammad Amir and was boosted last match by the return of Junaid Khan for the first time in more than 18 months.

Early wickets from the pacemen have allowed Pakistan’s steady spin-bowling attack to choke the hosts in the middle order, led by impressive left-armer Imad Wasim (2-35 and 2-37).

It’s a simple but so far effective game-plan that stand-in skipper Mohammad Hafeez is hoping to replicate on the bouncier WACA surface on Thursday.

“I don’t know about the past but in the last two games our bowlers have done a really great job for us,” said Hafeez when asked about Australia’s batting worries in ODIs this summer. “They took wickets at the right time and they put the opposition under tremendous pressure. We believe we can take three or four wickets early on, which gives you more of a chance to attack.

“That’s what our bowlers have done in the last two games and we’ll try and maintain the same aggressive attitude.”

Hafeez all but confirmed Pakistan will name an unchanged line-up for the match ahead of the probable return of regular skipper Azhar Ali for the fourth match in Sydney on Sunday.

Teams:

AUSTRALIA: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (captain), Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, James Faulkner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Billy Stanlake.

PAKISTAN (likely): Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan.

Umpires: Simon Fry (Australia) and Chettithody Shamshuddin (India).

TV umpire: Chris Gaffaney (New Zealand).

Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand).

Courtesy : Dawn News

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