One-day internationals (5): Pakistan 0, Australia 5
A series shoehorned awkwardly into the schedule as a World Cup tune-up worked perfectly for Australia. But it was a disaster for Pakistan: by the end, their coach Mickey Arthur was batting away ﬁerce criticism of the decision to rest a raft of senior players. Australia, however, looked chipper two months ahead of their World Cup defence.
The teams had met for Test and Twenty20 series the previous October (see Wisden 2019, page 933), with Pakistan winning both. At the time it had seemed sensible to split the tour, to give both sides extra 50-over practice ahead of the big event. But that overlooked the workload demanded of the Pakistan players. Since Australia's visit, they had hosted New Zealand and toured South Africa, with matches in all three formats, then slogged through the Pakistan Super League.
As all but the last nine days of the PSL were abroad, Arthur reasoned it was important to give some of his key men a break. Six were given time off, including the captain Sarfraz Ahmed, while Fahim Ashraf became the seventh midway through the series. Shoaib Malik, seemingly the last senior player standing, retained the captaincy he had inherited when Sarfraz was suspended in South Africa, but picked up a rib injury and missed the last two games. One of the replacements, Umar Akmal, returned after two years on the sidelines - but maintained a history of disciplinary issues by being ﬁned for breaching a team curfew.
It was hardly surprising that a resurgent Australia swept the series."In terms of morale, we are all incredibly disappointed," said Arthur. "We are a very proud cricket nation, and we represent 210 million people. But I think there is a bigger picture - we have a World Cup to win."
The Australians had arrived fresh from a come-from-behind 3-2 win in India. The transformation from the tour ﬁve months earlier was enormous. Back then, they were falling apart; now, the pieces seemed to be falling into place. Aaron Finch embodied the change. In October, he had been entirely out of form in the white-ball games. But, having come to terms with his promotion to the captaincy after Tim Paine was jettisoned, he reached new levels of excellence, with 451 runs at 112. "A lot of people were slamming us,"he said. "They were writing us off - not just for one-day cricket, but for all forms of cricket."
Another Australian to hit the heights was Glenn Maxwell, who hammered 258 runs at a strike-rate of 139. "He can be Virat Kohli," enthused coach Justin Langer.