STAR PREVIEW: Australia v Pakistan

The Cricket World Cup has been a washout for the last three days but if the rain stays away then we could be in for a treat as Australia take on Pakistan at Taunton today. The format of the World Cup – with the organisers having shoehorned the top 10 sides into an extended group stage – has led to regular big clashes and already the pressure is on for Pakistan, who are essentially playing knockout tournaments already.

That’s no fault of their own, but the rain that wrote off their game against Sri Lanka – for which they were heavy favourites – has left them in a very difficult situation, with Sri Lanka (outsiders for the whole tournament) set to play four of the remaining five favourites, they could easily find themselves potentially knocked out before the last few rounds.

However, when on form they do not need to fear anyone, as their defeat of tournament favourties England showed, when they used spin to chip away at the bulk of England’s batting prowess. Shadab Khan’s early scalp of Jason Roy, and Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik’s scalps of Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes proved key in England falling short of a World Cup record run chase, after an imposing target set with the help of Mohammad Hafeez’ 84, after he’d been dropped by Jason Roy on 14, whilst openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq added 82 in 14 overs to supplement Babar Azam’s 63.

That proves that Pakistan not only have the talent but the mental bounceback – they were skittled for just 105 by the West Indies in their tournament opener – to land blows on any side in this tournament.

They will need to be on their game to take on market leaders Australia, who are on the rebound after a 36 run defeat by India when Shikhar Dhawan’s fine 117, Virat Kohli’s 82 and 48 from Hardik Pandya set them a target which was too big to chase. They didn’t look anything like closing it down, but they had previously weathered the storm of the West Indies’ fast bowling for a 15 run win when Steve Smith’s 73 and Nathan Coulter-Nile’s 92 proved to be crucial.

Australia’s best weapon is their bowling attack, however, and Mitchell Starc – who took 5-46 against the Windies and Pat Cummins will be very interested in the cloudy conditions that will surely be present around Taunton.

It looks a bowlers’ day and Mitchell Starc might be the bet to be top bowler for the Aussies. Starc took 5-465 against the Windies and became the fastest bowler to 150 ODI wickets then. With cloud cover, both he and Cummins can hope to exert pressure and the absence of Marcus Stoinis puts more responsibility on them to take the heat to the Pakistan lineup. The cloud should aid him in being the strike bowler if Pat Cummins is on form.

For Pakistan, Mohammad Amir might be the top choice. He was the only wicket taker when they got trashed by the West Indies and he took two wickets against England too. Pakistan used spin for much of that game but conditions – if we get play – look idea for him to get at the Australians as there should be cloud cover.

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