LAHORE   -   Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik hopes his bowlers will get early Australia wickets to help them level the five-match series in the second match in Sharjah on Sunday.

A new-look Pakistan side went down by eight wickets in the first ODI on Friday in Sharjah, and now aim to level the series with an improved performance. Pakistan posted a decent 280 for five at the back of a maiden century by left-hander Haris Sohail, while recalled batsman Umar Akmal scored a fiery 48 and Shan Masood 40 on his ODI debut. But, the pace attack of Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas and Faheem Ashraf failed to give Pakistan early wickets. Aaron Finch struck a return-to-full-form 116, while Shaun Marsh scored 91 not out as Australia chased down the target in 49 overs.

The Pakistan cricket selectors have provided emerging and domestic performers an opportunity in this series to show their talent and prowess by resting six frontline players who have been playing non-stop cricket since September 2018.

This gives these players a chance to strengthen their claims for places in the World Cup squad, which will be announced at the end of the Pakistan Cup to be played from 2-12 April in Rawalpindi.

Amir’s lack of wickets is a worry for Pakistan and that can bring in 18-year-old rookie Mohammad Hasnain or one from experienced Junaid Khan or Usman Shinwari into the equation. Stand-in skipper Malik believed 280 was a defendable total, more so at a slow-paced Sharjah pitch where batting second was challenging.

“Yes, that was a defendable total,” said Malik of Pakistan’s total. “What different we must do is to take wickets at the top. There is not much difference. “We scored 280 runs, which was a good total, and it would not have been chased at Sharjah, maybe once or twice it was chased before, so we must keep that in mind.”

Pakistan also included leg-spinner Yasir Shah who went for 56 runs in his 10 overs, without taking a wicket. Pakistan have not won a bilateral series against Australia since 2002 – a fact that may also bolster them to level the series and then go on to win it. Australia are also likely to rest all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile, and bring in Ashton Turner and Pat Cummins – both rested for Friday’s game.

Australia are on a roll since winning the series 3-2 in India after being 2-0 down. Finch’s hundred was his first since July last year, while Marsh, dropped from the mid-series in India, has also returned to form. Finch said it was nice to overhaul the chase for the loss of just two wickets.

SQUADS (FROM):- PAKISTAN: Shoaib Malik (capt), Abid Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Saad Ali, Shan Masood, Umar Akmal, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah.

AUSTRALIA: Aaron Finch (c), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Turner, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon,

Adam Zampa.