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Rivals shrug off heat and timing concerns

Australia and Pakistan begin ODI series in Sharjah on Tuesday night

Gulf News

Sharjah: The much-anticipated one-day series between Pakistan and Australia begins on Tuesday night at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, with both sides insisting they aren’t worried about the threat of oppressive heat and humidity and matches that don’t finish until 2am.

The teams will battle it out for the Cool & Cool Cup presented by Bank Alfalah in three One Day Internationals tonight, in Abu Dhabi on Friday and back at Sharjah next Monday. A three-match Twenty20 series will follow in Dubai.

The three ODI matches will all start at 6pm — finishing in the early hours of the following morning — in a bid to avoid the worst of the UAE’s summer heat.

Australia began their acclimatisation efforts with a one-off match against Afghanistan on Saturday, which they won by 66 runs. And when Gulf News asked skipper Michael Clarke, who scored 75 in that game, how it felt to play in a one-day match that finished the next day, he said: “After the match I slept well, until about 10am, which is nice. It’s the longest I have slept for a long time.

“The boys are a little bit fatigued, but after undergoing our recovery we will be fit for our first match against Pakistan.”

Mohammad Hafeez, the vice-captain of the Pakistan team, is also not overly worried about the timing. “It is a decision taken by our management. We do not think too much about such decisions. It will be difficult for both the teams. We are more used to it because during Ramadan fasting period we train late into the night.”

The two teams are both keen to get back to winnings ways, as they each lost the last series they played — Pakistan in Sri Lanka and Australia in England.

“Both teams are keen to get some consistency. Pakistan are a lot like Australia because that they have a lot of talent. It’s just about performing consistently, getting out on that field and playing some of your best cricket,” said Clarke.

“Our goal as a team is to make sure we are playing well at home and away. I think our cricket in general in Australia has been a lot more consistent than away from Australia. So it’s certainly a goal of the Australian team to make sure we are performing overseas.

“We started well [against Afghanistan], but we have to do our best in this series against Pakistan.”

Similar is the thinking of Hafeez, who wants Pakistan to beat Australia for a psychological boost ahead of the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup.

“It would definitely be good to win here before the World Twenty20. I feel that whatever happened in the past has gone. We know we lost to Sri Lanka and England, but still we have got a good side to win this series,” he said.

On leaving out experienced fast bowler Umar Gul for the ODI series, Hafeez added: “Gul is one of our best bowlers but this time he is struggling for form. But we have Saeed Ajmal, one of the best spinners and who has been doing his role very well in the last few years. I don’t want to put any pressure on him, but he stands out. He was the best bowler against England and hopefully will do his part.”

In Saturday’s match, Australia scored 272 for eight batting first and then dismissed Afghanistan for 206 reply, but Clarke knows that bowling Pakistan out on the UAE’s subcontinent-style wickets will be far from easy.

“The Sharjah wicket was quite slow and pretty flat, so one has to work hard for your wickets,” he said. “I think it was really positive that we managed to bowl Afghanistan out on that wicket.

“I know it’s going to be a hard-fought contest against Pakistan. We know we will have to bat as well as we possibly can, as well as we did on Saturday, and must execute our skills with the ball as well. We will have to be really disciplined with the ball because it is tough to get wickets out there.”