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So in a familiar location, Pakistan find themselves in a familiar situation – behind against Australia, and needing a victory to keep the series alive. Having not beaten the Australians in an ODI series since 2002, there remains a sense of self-doubt about the way Pakistan confront these opponents. Their sage captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, diagnosed an inability to “read the match situation well”, after the lower order had folded to offer Michael Clarke’s team a sub-prime target in Sharjah.
This was true, but so too is the fact that no-one on either side knows a reality other than that in which Australia defeats Pakistan repeatedly. Clarke has a singularly dominant record against Pakistan, and by contrast many of the subcontinental side’s more seasoned players have a gap in their records when it comes to Australia. Even with the disadvantages of conditions and time zones, Australia play with a level of confidence against Pakistan derived from the belief that composure will win out over talent and impetuosity, as well as Misbah has done to stabilise the moods of his team.
Among Pakistan players, the contrast between the overall record and that against Australia does not come much more stark than that of Mohammad Hafeez. His ascent to the top of the ICC’s rankings in numerous disciplines and formats may have surprised several of the Australians, given that as a batsman he has never passed 13 against them. While Hafeez did excel with the ball in Sharjah, it is as a top order batsman that Pakistan will need him to lift in Abu Dhabi.