Australia and Pakistan’s meeting in Bengaluru on Friday is one of the biggest matches of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 so far in terms of who will make the semi-final stage.
Defeats to India and South Africa in their opening two matches mean that Pat Cummins’ side can likely only afford to lose a maximum of two more games and quite possibly just one more in the remainder of their group-stage fixtures if they are to stand a chance of finishing in the top four spots.
And a loss to Pakistan, who already have two wins to their name, would be a particularly significant blow to the five-time winners’ hopes of adding a sixth title to their country’s men’s Cricket World Cup tally.
Pakistan’s disappointing loss to India last time out was a setback after a strong start.
But victory over the Aussies would help Babar Azam’s side pull clear over their rivals in the race for the semi-final spots as they approach the halfway stage of their group campaign.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith, Alex Carey, Josh Inglis, Sean Abbott, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim.
Pakistan – Babar Azam
Pakistan’s captain currently tops the MRF Tyres ODI Men’s Batting Rankings, but his form hasn’t quite clicked so far at the tournament.
A fine half-century against India showed glimpses of Babar hitting his stride after disappointing returns against Netherlands and Sri Lanka. Still, he’ll want to be making bigger contributions than that going forward.
In all likelihood his team will need bigger contributions from the skipper too, if they are to stand a chance of making the top four. And there would be no better time for a Babar special than in this key fixture.
Nineteen career ODI hundreds and an average of 57.02 in the format suggest that big runs are just around the corner.
Australia – Mitchell Starc
The big wicket-taking threat for Australia, Starc has five wickets to his name in the tournament so far, and will play a key role, particularly during the first Powerplay.
Disrupting Pakistan’s attempts to build a platform is key to beating Babar’s side, with their top four bearing the brunt of the responsibility with the bat.
And should Starc fire and get among the wickets early, then Australia’s chances will be hugely increased.