BRISBANE: Pakistan's losing streak last week extended to 12 consecutive Tests in Australia, they must be hoping that a change of format will bring a change of fortunes.
Perhaps it will, though much remains stacked against them as they begin a series of five ODIs with the opener at the Gabba on Friday. Their record in ODIs against Australia in Australia isn't a whole lot better than their Test history, having lost their last eight. In fact, across all formats, Pakistan have lost their last 15 games against Australia in Australia, their last win having come in an ODI at the WACA in 2005.
Adding to the challenge for Pakistan, they are facing the No.1-ranked ODI side in the world, and are themselves ranked eighth. It is a precarious position for Pakistan, who are at serious risk of failing to qualify directly for the 2019 World Cup. The eight highest-ranked sides as at September 30 this year will earn automatic qualification, while the remainder will be forced to take part in the World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh in 2018. Every ODI win in the next nine months is therefore critical for Pakistan.
And they will begin this series with a weakened squad, having lost both Mohammad Irfan and Sarfraz Ahmed, who have both flown home to Pakistan for family reasons.
But Australia also enter this series with a new-look side, which might give Pakistan a glimmer of hope. The tall and very raw fast bowler Billy Stanlake will make his debut at the Gabba, along with middle-order batsman Chris Lynn. And David Warner will have a new opening partner - Travis Head - after Aaron Finch was dropped. George Bailey has also been axed, and it means that for the first time since June 2012, Australia will play an ODI with neither Bailey nor Finch. Josh Hazlewood is also out of this first game, being rested after a heavy workload in the Tests.