Runs up front the key

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Pakistan v Australia
Thursday 31 March 11.00
Live on BT Sport

Pakistan looking limited

Pakistan lost Shaheen Shah Afridi to injury the day before game one and they missed his pace and verve with the ball as they conceded 313.

Whether Afridi is fit for this one looks highly doubtful. He was struck on the knee in the nets and although the blow may only be superficial what is the point of Pakistan risking their main man who has had an extraordinary workload over the last six months?

There were bright spots in the convincing defeat. Imam-ul-Haq’s century reminds everyone he is one of the best openers in the world in this format while Babar Azam made a pleasing half-century.

But the middle-order lacks quality. Iftikhar, at No 6, and Hasan Ali at No 8 are both a place too high one suspects. There’s little they can do to remedy. It would be good to see Usman Qadir given a game to hit Australia with as much spin as possible but they would then have balance issues.

Possible XI: Fakhar, Imam, Babar, Shakeel, Rizwan, Iftikhar, Khushdil, Hasan, M Wasim, Mehmood

Aussie’s fire in adversity

No Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc. No problem. No Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Jane Richardson or Ashton Agar, either.

Given the depleted resources Australia did a remarkable job to win game one so convincingly. The 88-run success was testament to their depth as much as their fight. They were under the pump with Imam and Babar going well in the chase but came back superbly.

Travis Head and Adam Zampa were the stars of the show. Head’s brutal century in an unfamiliar opening berth marked him down as a player of the highest quality. Zampa’s four-wicket haul turned the game as he ripped the heart out of the Pakistan chase.

We expect a similar Aussie line-up. They don’t have much choice. Marsh and Richardson are out of the series with injuries while Inglis and Agar both have Covid.

Possible XI: Head, Finch, McDermott, Labuschagne, Stoinis, Green, Carey, Abbott, Swepson, Ellis, Zampa

Pitch report

The Gaddafi Stadium has been one for the batters in T20 and Head could have been forgiven for thinking it was a thrash-and-bash surface. His strike rate of 140 suggested there were few demons. It was also interesting to see the continued bleed into 50-over from 20-over tactics.

More than 300 should be the aim for the side batting first and we have few qualms about which side gets first go. Paying high on the runs line at mid 280s or early 290s doesn’t seem too risky.

Advantage defender

Team news seems to be dictating the prices rather than what happened in game one. The match odds market reckon Australia’s player drain will get them in the end. Pakistan are 1.774/5.

Child’s play, then, to reckon Australia are value at 2.3211/8. We’d like that comfort blanket of them batting first, however. If they do that, another 300-plus score is on the cards and those odds should flip.

Australia have proved they can expose Pakistan’s middle order through Zampa. However, if Pakistan bat first we could rather quickly feel the heat on an Australia bet because they are loaded up top with their best three in Fakhar Zaman, Imam and Babar. Bet the match odds here

Tops value

As discussed for game one, Fakhar, Imam and Babar are all value on win rates in the last three years for top Pakistan bat. Sportsbook go 7/2 the first pair and boost Babar to 13/5. An honourable mention to Mohammad Rizwan who at 11/2 has oodles of quality.

Head is into 10/3 for top Aussie with Labuschagne 9/2. Camron Green’s cameo in game one suggests the 17/1 is toppy.

With the ball Afridi is into 11/4 from 3/1. We don’t expect him to play but on return rate it is a wager. He should be outright jolly instead of sharing status with Hasan Ali.

Zampa has been cut from 7/2 to 5/2. It’s a reasonable adjustment and given that we played and won last time we’re happy to swerve in the knowledge the value has gone. Bet Sportsbook markets here

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