Pakistan's Babar Azam has been in rare form for Pakistan.
Pakistan's Babar Azam has been in rare form for Pakistan. Martin Rickett

Australia v Pakistan: The match-ups that matter

PAKISTAN is desperate to end its tour Down Under on a bright note when it takes on Australia in a five-match ODI series, beginning in Brisbane on Friday.

And of the 22 men to line up at the Gabba in the first rubber, there's a handful who could decide the result off their own bat (or ball).

These are the head-to-head player match-ups that will define the ODI series.


Warner's numbers: 88 ODIs, 3579 runs at an average of 43.12, strike rate 95.46.

Azam's numbers: 18 ODIs, 886 runs at an average of 52.11, strike rate 93.55

Australia's explosive opener is in some seriously purple form with the willow. He hit scores of 119 and 156 in his two most recent ODI outings, against New Zealand last month. He followed those up with two centuries in five Test innings against Pakistan.

He's lost his top-order partner Aaron Finch, who was dropped from the squad, and will most likely find himself walking out with fellow lefty Usman Khawaja in the opening rubber on Friday.

Like Warner, Azam's recent ODI outings have borne fruit. The right-hander has hit three consecutive ODI centuries, all against the West Indies to lead Pakistan to a series victory late last year. Azam returned scores of 120, 123, and 117 in consecutive one-day outings during the three-match series.

And at just 22 years old he shapes as one of the country's most important short-form players. He'll likely be coming in at first or second drop.


Smith's numbers: 90 ODIs, 2880 runs at an average of 42.98, strike rate 87.83

Ali's numbers: 42 ODIs, 1568 runs at an average of 40.20, strike rate 75.60

While they may not line up directly in the batting order, the two skippers will lead from the front as each strives for a series victory.

Ali takes the armband from Misbah-ul-Haq who captained Pakistan during a tough three-match Test loss, and the assignment that awaits him is a daunting one.

The visitors sit eighth on the ICC's ODI rankings list while the Aussies sit pretty in first place, and Pakistan will need to pull something special out of the hat to cause a series upset before flying home.

Ali will carry the weight of the captaincy while also opening the batting for the visiting side. He'll be charged with seeing off one of the world's best quicks in Mitchell Starc, who has proven his ability to swing the white ball late at pace.

Ali compiled a stunning 205 not out against Australia in the MCG Test and bookended the series with scores of 71 and 71.

Smith, one of the world's best batsmen, hit two centuries during the Test series and, along with David Warner, will be a key wicket in Pakistan's hopes of a one-day victory.

Pakistan bowler Wahab Riaz is seen in the nets ahead of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AAP Image/Julian Smith) NO ARCHIVING
Pakistan bowler Wahab Riaz in the nets JULIAN SMITH


Starc's numbers: 59 ODIs, 116 wickets at an average of 19.66, economy 4.77

Riaz's numbers: 75 ODIs, 100 wickets at an average of 32.43, economy 5.57

The two big left-arm quicks will lead their respective sides' bowling attacks, at least while Josh Hazlewood sits out the series opener in Brisbane on Friday.

Starc played second fiddle to the in-form Hazlewood during the recent three-Test series against Pakistan, but his ability with the white ball makes him the most dangerous bowler on the planet.

His ODI bowling average of 19.66 is phenomenal, and his economy is better than Riaz's by almost one run per over bowled. Against New Zealand he took six wickets across three one-day matches.

Riaz, five years Starc's senior, will lead a Pakistan attack set a huge task of blunting the Australian top-order. He performed admirably during the Test series, taking first-innings figures of 4-89, 2-147, and 3-89 across the three matches.

His fast, hooping left-arm deliveries could cause damage to Australia's top-order lacking the experience of Aaron Finch and George Bailey.


Mailk's numbers: 240 ODIs, 6410 runs at an average of 34.64, strike rate 81.28; 152 wickets at an average of 38.01, economy 4.64

Faulkner's numbers: 61 ODIs, 921 runs at an average of 36.84, strike rate 108.22; 84 wickets at an average of 30.72, economy 5.49

Maxwell's numbers: 67 ODIs, 1763 runs at an average of 33.26, strike rate 125.74; 45 wickets at an average of 38.15, economy 5.52

Malik is the Pakistan veteran with a concrete resume built on 240 one-day internationals. He's a middle-to-top-order batsman whose offspin has reaped 152 ODI wickets - he is the jack of all trades. The only question is which Aussie all-rounder he will be pitted against.

It appears the Australians will select either Faulkner or Maxwell for Friday's series opener at the Gabba. There will unlikely be room for both of them in the side.

Both make a fair claim with the bat, which means it will come down to their bowling as to who gets the nod. Faulkner's right-arm medium pacers have bamboozled plenty of international batsmen in the past, and he could be used as a fourth seamer. Maxwell, on the other hand, throws down some offspin but his numbers aren't as good as Faulkner's at international level.

Respected commentator and former player Kerry O'Keeffe took a swipe at Maxwell's bowling action this week, and it could be the final nail in the Big Show's ODI coffin if selectors feel the same way.