LAHORE: Pakistan will start as firm favourites against an injury-hit Australian team in the first of three one-day internationals (ODIs) here at the Gaddafi Stadium on today (Tuesday).
Already missing a number of top players, the Kangaroos were dealt an additional blow when all-rounder Mitchell Marsh suffered an injury, and wicketkeeper-batter Josh Inglis tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday.
The tourists will now have to pick replacements from their touring squad against an in-form Pakistan playing in familiar conditions.
Both Pakistan and Australia eye a spot in the 50-over World Cup. As the bilateral series is part of the 13-team ODI Super League in which every match carries 10 points, with the top seven qualifying automatically for the World Cup next year.
Australia are currently seventh and Pakistan 10th, but both have played just three of their eight scheduled series.
India have already qualified as hosts.
Australia were already without key players David Warner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Steven Smith for various reasons and have been further hit by the loss of all-rounder Marsh, their hero when they won the T20 World Cup in November.
All five senior players were part of the team that won the three-match Test series 1-0 last week, on Australia’s first tour of Pakistan in 24 years.
Finch hopes new players such as Sean Abbott, Ben Dwarshuis, Nathan Ellis and Ben McDermott will rise to the occasion despite their inexperience.
“At times that can be a real blessing because you have the ability for guys to just play freely and express themselves,” said Finch.
“It’s about trying to build the depth in the squad and experience in players,” he added.
Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman said his team was looking for maximum 30 points from the series.
“They are missing some big names so that will make a difference,” he said.
“But it’s an international team and we are not going to take them lightly because Australia is known for doing well in all situations and all circumstances.”
Fakhar vowed Pakistan will put the Test series loss behind them.
“Our captain [Babar Azam] has spoken that what has happened is beyond us…this is a new series so we will do our best to win it.”
For Pakistan, the inclusion of injury-pronged all-rounder Shadab Khan as the opener is doubtful. He is unlikely to play in the first two fixtures.
The next two ODIs will be on Thursday and Saturday, also in Lahore.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Asif Afridi, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-Ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Haris, Zahid Mahmood, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Junior, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir
Australia: Aaron Finch (captain), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Ben Dwarshuis, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Ben McDermott, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Adam Zampa.