Ed Hawkins previews the first of three contests, hoping for a more competitive series at the SCG early on Sunday
"That toss bias should be a useful pointer as to whether Pakistan are clued up or not for this series. If they win the toss and chase, they should be motivated"
Australia v Pakistan
Sunday 3 November, 03:30
Live on BT Sport
Ordinarily, there might be some concern that after a quickfire three-game series against one opponent, Australia have to refocus and re-strategise against another within two days. But Sri Lanka's pathetic performances have served as a nice warm-up for the challenge of Pakistan.
The Aussies look in decent shape in terms of balance. David Warner's sensational form should have put to bed any doubts about a reshuffle at the top of the order, Aaron Finch got a decent hit under his belt at the MCG while a middle order of Ben McDermott, Alex Carey and Ashton Turner has potential.
True, the loss of Glenn Maxwell is upsetting and there are still queries as to what Steve Smith is doing there but it's tough to tick all the boxes, particularly when Kane Richardson, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are dovetailing nicely in the pace department.
D'Arcy Short, the Hobart Hurricanes opener, is expected to remain with the squad after being called up as a replacement for Maxwell. He could be given a chance as opener alongside Warner with Finch moving to three and McDermott missing out. If Australia want to experiment.
Puzzling Pakistan picks
Pakistan are the No 1 team in the world in name only. They have lost their last three series, with a cumulative win record of one in seven. The 3-0 reverse at home to Sri Lanka was an embarrassment.
Not surprisingly, changes have been made. Babar Azam is Misbah-ul-Haq's choice of captain, replacing the tired Sarfaraz Ahmed. There have also been the ubiquitous bonkers calls in the pace depart-ment. Back comes 37-year-old Mohammad Irfan, who hasn't played for three years, and, of course, Wahab Riaz.
It is inconceivable to anyone who keeps a keen eye on Pakistan's fast-bowling stock. Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Shinwari or Hasan Ali would have been picks which would have en-couraged fans and punters alike. Mohammad Amir is a threat and Muhammad Hasnain potent. Us-man Qadir is an interesting extra spin option.
There's not a huge amount wrong with the batting. Babar and Fakhar Zaman make for a good open-ing combo. Haris Sohail has class, too. And the dangerous Mohammad Rizwan, who takes the gloves from Sarfaraz, has been long overdue a run in the team.
Win toss, bat second
There have been ten T20s (Big Bash and international) at the SCG since January 2018. The scores (1-2 denote match won by team batting first or second, most recent) read: 128-2/124-2/172-2/177-1/115-2/130-2/164-1/164-2/117-2/189-2. That's an average first dig score of 148. There's also a bias for the chaser of eight from ten. It holds back to December 2019 with seven winners chasing from nine.
Pakistan have to chase
That toss bias should be a useful pointer as to whether Pakistan are clued up or not for this series. If they win the toss and chase, they should be motivated. If not...oh dear. In the last two years Pakistan have won 14 from 17 batting first. It is their preferred option but they have to be able to adapt so the flip gives a great indication of where they're at.
It's also a pointer for punters. When Australia are going off no better than [1.33], we need all the help we can get to consider the tourists. And clearly, you don't want to be taking those odds on Aussie if the toss goes against them.
Warner on fire
Here are Warner's scores in his last 18 T20 innings (franchise and internationals, most recent first): 57*/60*/100*/*81*/37/57/67/50/51/70/15/10/100*/69/95/19/63/61*. No wonder Sportsbook go 15/8 about him top batting here. He top scored in all three of the matches against Sri Lanka, overturning a 0-5 record before a ball was bowled.
Warner goes up against the most reliable top batter in internationals: Babar Azam. Babar has a 52.6% win rate in the last two years (plus one tie). Still, those who backed him in each of the three clashes against Sri Lanka might find it hard to go back at 12/5. Instead, it might be easier to go over Sportsbook's 28.5 runs quote. He has busted that mark 20 times in his 33-game career.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l