CANBERRA     -    Australia have begun their home summer in dominant fashion, but after being denied by rain in Sydney, can they get back to their winning ways in the second T20I today (Tuesday).

Australia have done more right than wrong through much of this year. They began it by beating India in an ODI series at home, carried that over to the United Arab Emirates, where they swept Pakistan 5-0 to rack up an eight-match winning streak, blazed their way into the semi-final of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, and then came out of an Ashes series in England undefeated for the first time in 18 years.

On the back of this form, they went into their home summer, and began it by razing Sri Lanka 3-0 in a T20I series, included among the triumphs their largest-ever victory in the shortest format, and were well on track towards winning the series opener against Pakistan, but for the rains in Sydney.

They have put up all the signs of a world-beating outfit over the last few months: they have infused their side with a stream of young T20 specialists, have identified clearly-defined roles for their squad, and are peaking in the shortest format a year removed from a World Cup that will be contested in their conditions.

Standing opposite them are Pakistan, ranked No.1 in ICC T20I Team Rankings, but also the side that has lost its last three completed games in the format, and could have potentially added another to the tally if not for the weather coming to their aid. Pakistan are beginning a new era under Babar Azam, the top-ranked batsman in this format at the international level.

It’s been an up and down year for Pakistan. Their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 campaign was a mixed one at best. That was followed by a brief return of international cricket to the country, as Sri Lanka visited them for a full limited-overs tour, but were swept in the T20Is 3-0 by a second-string team.

Babar is a young captain taking over at a critical time, with less than 12 months left to build towards a World Cup. He’s already made a bright start with the bat on his captaincy debut, but can he positively influence the direction of his team as well?

On a rainy Sunday in Sydney, the two sides clashed in a no contest. After Australia’s new-ball bowlers rattled Pakistan early, Babar rallied to produce a fighting half-century that lifted his side to 107/5 in an innings that had to be culled to 15 overs. Set a revised target of 119, Aaron Finch teed off with a barrage of boundaries as Australia zoomed away to 41/0 in 3.1 overs before the rain returned and sent the players back for good, 11 balls short of the minimum requirement to get a result in.

Aaron Finch, Australia captain, said: “To restrict them to 107 off 15 overs was a great effort and then to be on track to get them was nice. When you’re old and fat you get a bit of luck sometimes. It was nice to get a few out of the middle.”

The Canberra weather should mostly be clear. This will be the Manuka Oval’s T20I debut. In the last limited-overs international that took place at this ground, Australia racked up 378/5 against trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand and defended it successfully by 116 runs.


AUSTRALIA: David Warner, Aaron Finch (capt), Steven Smith, Ben McDermott, Ashton Turner, Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson.

PAKISTAN: Babar Azam (capt), Fakhar Zaman/Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Iftikhar Ahmed, Wahab Riaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan/Mohammad Musa.