MELBOURNE -  Pakistan, who have had a difficult time on their tour of Australia, were handed another blow on Saturday (January 14) with Azhar Ali, their One-Day International captain, ruled out of their second ODI in Melbourne Sunday.

Azhar picked up a hamstring injury during Pakistan’s 92-run defeat to Steven Smith’s men in the opening game of the five-match series on Friday. With Sarfraz Ahmed, the regular vice-captain, having flown back home to be with his ailing mother, Mohammad Hafeez will be stand-in captain in what will be his first ODI in charge, though he has led in Twenty20 Internationals before. He is also likely to open the batting in place of Azhar.

Hafeez, 36, in fact, had not been named in the original squad, only being called up as the 16th member last week following a request from Azhar and Mickey Arthur, the coach.

Shoaib Malik’s availability is also under a cloud for the Melbourne game, with the allrounder still recovering from an illness that kept him out of the opener. If his return is delayed, Asad Shafiq could come in.

The missing names will come as a setback to a Pakistan side still trying to regroup after their 3-0 sweep in the Tests. On Friday, 17 overs into the game and with Australia reduced to 78 for 5, they might have believed their fortunes had turned, but a stunning unbeaten hundred from Matthew Wade and his 82-run partnership with Glenn Maxwell took the game away from them. Despite their top-order failure, Australia’s long tail came good and they could post 268 for 9. Their pacers then exposed Pakistan’s batting to bowl them out for 176.

Arthur pulled up his batsmen over their poor strike rates in the game and urged them to aim for scores closer to 300. “I thought from the fifth ODI in England (which Pakistan had won in September) we had devised a brand that worked for us and a brand that would be sustainable for us at international level,” he said. “But we went back to the old-style cricket tonight, which doesn’t really have a future and it means that we don’t get the scores of 300 that we need.”

Urging his side to grab the opportunities presented to them, he added: “The players have got the ability, there’s no doubt. This is an unbelievable group of players and they work so hard. It’s just about backing themselves. It’s all about getting confidence in those situations to play the cut or hit one over extra cover and try and put some pressure back on the bowler. That’s a confidence thing.”

For Australia, the selectors had said that Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, their star pacemen, would have some time off during the ODI series, ahead of next month’s Test tour to India. Hazlewood, who sat out of the first game, could return, with Starc due for a rest.


AUSTRALIA: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Pat Cummins, James Faulkner, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Chris Lynn, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Billy Stanlake, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade (wk), Adam Zampa.

PAKISTAN: M Hafeez (capt), Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim,

M Aamir, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Rahat Ali,

Sharjeel Khan, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz.


Australia have won their past nine ODIs at the MCG, last losing there to Sri Lanka in March 2012


At no ground has Mitchell Starc taken more ODI wickets than the MCG, where he has picked up 17 at 14.23


In the first game at the Gabba, Matthew Wade became just the second Australian (James Faulkner was the other) to score an ODI hundred from outside the top six. The feat has been achieved only 14 times worldwide