MOHALI, India, March 24, (AFP): A stumbling Australia will need to raise their game when they take on Pakistan in a must-win group match of the World Twenty20 in Mohali on Friday.
The Australians handed Bangladesh a second straight defeat in their previous outing but only after surviving a scare against Mashrafe Mortaza’s depleted side.
The reigning 50-over world champions have appeared tentative at best, going down to New Zealand in their opening encounter and then sweating for a win against the Tigers.
“I don’t think we have hit our 100 percent just yet,” Aussie skipper Steven Smith said Thursday at the pre-match press conference.
“But I think that’s good because you want to play your best cricket at the back-end of the tournament.
“I think we have to be a little bit better than we have been in the first two games. Pakistan is a quality opposition, so yeah we have to be better than we have been.”
Pakistan are hurting after defeats to India and an impressive New Zealand, who have already booked their place in the semi-finals from Group B.
Another defeat will finish off Pakistan’s hopes of advancing any further in the tournament, which would be a huge disappointment for a side eyeing a repeat of their 2009 title winning feat.
Senior Pakistan batsman Shoaib Malik said the players were eager to improve in all departments in the crunch game against the Aussies.
“There are certain areas where we need to improve our skills. Consistency is one thing which we are lacking. We are working on it,” Malik said.
“As professional players, we want to give our 100 percent. Our first goal is to win tomorrow.”
Under-fire Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi might be tempted to tinker his playing eleven, given neither his seamers nor spinners have looked threatening against quality opposition.
Australia could consider bringing in the fit-again batsman Aaron Finch, who has yet to play largely because of the way his replacement Usman Khawaja has stood up at the top of the order.
Finch, who is the top-ranked batsman in the shortest format of the game, was dumped as T20 captain in favour of Test and ODI captain Smith last month.
Khawaja made a match-winning 58 against Bangladesh after scoring a handy 38 against the Black Caps.
Australia: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill, Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (captain), Anwar Ali, Imad Wasim, Khalid Latif, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Sami, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Sharjeel Khan, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz.