Afridi and Zampa can dazzle

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Pakistan v Australia
Tuesday 29 March 11.00
TV: live on BT Sport

Pakistan need courage

Pakistan are smarting after defeat by Australia in the Test series. It was an opportunity missed as they bizarrely failed to have the conviction to prepare spicy-enough surfaces.

A safety-first approach individually has been a factor in their white-ball play recently and it seems to have spread to the collective. Are Pakistan playing for themselves or each other?

They come into this series off the back of a 3-0 defeat by England in England. Not relevant. They were decent in a 2-1 win in South Africa. But it was only 2019 that they lost 3-0 to Australia in the UAE.

A clue as to whether they’re going for it is if they pick mystery spinner Usman Qadir instead of the more steady option in Mohammad Nawaz.

Possible XI: Imam, Fakhar, Babar, Rizwan, Asif Ali, Khushdil, Iftikhar, Hasan, Rauf, Qadir, Afridi

Australia depleted

Australia are not at full-strength. They have given their big-name players a rest after Test series exertions.

Steve Smith, David Warner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are not in the squad. Usman Khawaja might have been a smart recall given his form but instead Marnus Labuschagne and Aaron Finch are the senior batters. Glenn Maxwell is not involved.

It’s something of an audition for the rest. Josh Inglis, Ben McDermott and Travis Head get the chance to nail down a spot.

With the ball, Kane Richardson is attack-leader. Spinner Adam Zampa will be key and is likely to form a decent partnership with Ashton Agar.

Possible XI: Finch, Inglis, Labuschagne, Head, Stoinis, Carey, Agar, Abbott, Richardson, Behrendorff, Zampa

Pitch report

There hasn’t been an ODI in Lahore, as you would expect, since 2015. Nor is it particularly helpful that there hasn’t been a List A game there since 2018. The last five first digs, for what it’s worth, have scores that read (most recent first, 1-2 denote match won by side batting first or second): 291-1/321-1/164-2/329-1/261-1.

Those numbers suggest the big runs seen in T20 cricket in recent times means bat dominates ball. With all three matches in the series at the Gaddafi, it makes sense to keep a watching brief for one game at least to get a good idea of the surface before going long on runs.

Tourists can trade

Pakistan are 1.784/5 with Australia 2.285/4. That’s a cheeky price about a Pakistan side which has just failed to make home advantage count.

The key could still be spin, despite Australia being without their first-choice pace attack. Zampa and Agar have worked well together and in a match-up against, say Usman Qadir and Iftikhar, they more than hold their own.

And the teams may well be matched nicely in terms of intent. Australia and Pakistan have had a habit of playing the old-fashioned way, trying to build platforms instead of going hell for leather at the start.

At a minimum we’d expect Australia capable of flipping these odds, so a simple trade could be shrewd particularly if batting second under lights is tricky and the flip goes their way. And by that we mean a dew issue. Bet the match odds here.

Tops value

Babar Azam has been boosted to 11/4 for top Pakistan bat. On three-year form he has a win rate of 33.3%. So there’s an edge of 6.6%. There’s an even bigger edge of 7.7% on Fakhar Zaman at 4/1, however. Imam-ul-Haq has an edge of 7.2% on win rate at 7/2.

When spilt for choice it may be wise not to get involved at all. Normally we have only one option on win rates but three? It’s hard to make a case for standout.

For Australia, Labuschagne has been boosted to 7/2 but it’s zero wins in 13. Warner and Smith have dominated for three years. Marcus Stoinis looks aa batting order wager at 10s.

Luckily there’s two standouts for top bowler. Zampa has six wins in 23 and three ties. Sportsbook’s 7/2 is therefore generous. Shaheen Afridi has six wins in 18 and has three ties. He is a generous 3/1. Bet the Sportsbook markets here.