Shoaib Malek and Aaron Finch, Captain of Austalian team, along with Azhar Kha, Group Head Operations Technology, JS Bank, during the trophy unveiling of Pakistan- Australia ODI series, at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Sharjah: Pakistan, who have rested six of their top players including skipper Sarfraz Ahmad, take on an Australian team high on confidence after their historic series win over India, in a five-match ODI series beginning on Friday at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

In the last series between these two nations in the UAE in October 2018, Pakistan beat Australia 1-0 in the two-match Test series and also inflicted a 3-0 whitewash win on them in the three-match T20 series. So for Australia this series is an opportunity to avenge that defeat.

Pakistan are fresh from the recently concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL). The squad is made up of some of the youngsters who sparkled in the league.

For Australia, some of these new faces will be an unknown on conditions and pitches which they are not familiar with.

Gulf News asks Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malek whether his team is strong enough to take on Australians as they have rested their main players K.R. Nayar/Gulf News

Everyone is viewing this series as a dress-rehearsal ahead of the oncoming World Cup in England.

When Gulf News asked skipper Shoaib Malek if he considers his team strong enough to take on the Australians, he said: “Well if you look at both squads, of course Australia are well experienced, especially after what they have done against India in India. The morale of their team is also high. But I am not one of those who look for excuses, I think we have enough strength in our dressing room which can take on the Australians. I have full backing from my players even though they are very young but they are highly talented and confident guys.”

Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was candid enough to admit that it’s a new squad created to find a few more options for the World Cup squad.

“To be honest, this is a series of opportunity. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that couple of positions are available for the World Cup. There are probably four available. Inzi (chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq) and I have discussed that. So these young players need to raise their hands up and try make those places their own. It’s exciting time going into the World Cup.”

Arthur knows that the Australian team for this ODI series is a different one to that his team played against last October. “Australia are a fantastic side and they have bubbled away, have gone through much publicised crisis and they seem to be playing some very good cricket at the moment,” he said. “To win that series (against India) from 2-0 down was fantastic achievement. They have got some fine players, (Usman) Khawaja and Pat Cummins are in good nick. They have couple of good young guys. I am sure they will rotate their players through the series as they also need their major players firing.”

Malek want his players to focus on the series and not just about winning a place in the World Cup squad. “We have almost 11 more games before reaching the World Cup,” he said. “Opportunities are open for everyone even though he (Arthur) mentioned that only four slots are available. If you perform extraordinarily then of course you create something for yourself. It should be secondary that you start thinking there are only four slots left and I don’t know who is going to go and represent the country in the World Cup. Your first goal, as a professional, is to give your best shot and try to perform for the team. Everyone should focus on what is coming.”

Pakistan: Shoaib Malik (Capt) Abid Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan (Wk), Saad Ali, Shan Masood, Umar Akmal, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Hasnain

Australia: Aaron Finch (Capt), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Turner, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (vc, wk), Pat Cummins (VC), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa

Fixtures: (all matches start at 3pm)

March 22 — 1st ODI, Sharjah Cricket Stadium

March 24 — 2nd ODI, Sharjah Cricket Stadium

March 27 — 3rd ODI, Abu Dhabi Zayed Cricket Stadium

March 29 — 4th ODI, Dubai International Stadium

March 31 — 5th ODI, Dubai International Stadium.