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AUSTRALIA V PAKISTAN ODIS

Lehmann puts heat on his batsmen

18 January 2017

Martin Smith, in Perth


@martinsmith9994

Martin Smith, in Perth


@martinsmith9994

Australia coach expecting more from his top order in what is shaping as a crucial clash at the WACA

Australia's roller-coaster summer of cricket will come full circle tomorrow when the hosts return to the WACA Ground aiming to avoid the kind of top-order wobble that punctuated the start of their Test campaign more than two months ago.

Australia's last match in Perth, against South Africa in early November, featured a significant batting collapse of 10-86 as the Proteas stormed to a 1-0 series lead with victory by 177 runs.

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The home side's batting frailty was exposed even further in the following Test in Hobart, ripped out for just 85 and 161 to spark a wave of South African celebrations as well as Australian recriminations.

Steve Smith's side has enjoyed mostly good tidings since then; an eight-match winning streak across all formats that only ended on Sunday when Pakistan recorded their first win on Australian soil in 12 years.

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While the gamble on uncapped batting rookies Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscomb has paid off handsomely in the Test side following the low of Hobart, Australia's ODI series whitewash of New Zealand back in December, an injection of white-ball cricket that was shoe-horned between Test matches, was not without its hiccups on the batting front.

And it's a trend that has continued in the opening two matches against Pakistan this past week.

In all, Australia have won four of their five one-day international games on home soil this summer, despite losing their first four wickets for less than 100 on all but one occasion.

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The previous four instances of Australia being four wickets down for less than 100 in ODIs at home came over a span of three summers and 23 matches, including their 2015 World Cup triumph.

Bailed out by Steve Smith against NZ in Sydney, David Warner against the Black Caps in Melbourne and then by Matthew Wade against Pakistan in Brisbane last Friday, no one was able to do so at the MCG last Sunday and the resulting total of just 220 was always going to be difficult to defend.

Coach Darren Lehmann addressed the batting group directly at a training session in Perth yesterday before the entire playing squad enjoyed a day off today (except for Glenn Maxwell, who opted for a quick net session) ahead of the final three matches of this series, a three-match ODI tour of New Zealand and the far more daunting task of a four-match Test series in India starting next month.

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And the coach said his top order, which will include ODI debutant Handscomb tomorrow, needs to stand up.

"We got saved by Matthew Wade in Brisbane when we were in trouble, so to have the top four or five do all the batting in this game will be good," the coach said.

"It was an optional (training) session (today) and the guys have been going for five months on the bounce, so to give them a day off occasionally is good heading into the back three games.

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"They've been training really well. You can only do so much training, they've got to do it out on the park. So we're making sure they're fresh and ready to go.

"The batters know what they want to do, they know how they want to do it. It's just a matter of implementing it out there."

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While Australia's top order has looked fragile in the first two games of this series, credit must also go to a Pakistan bowling attack that has been led admirably by Mohammad Amir and was boosted last match by the return of Junaid Khan for the first time in more than 18 months.

Early wickets from their pacemen has allowed Pakistan's steady spin-bowling attack to choke the hosts in the middle order, led by impressive left-armer Imad Wasim (2-35 and 2-37).

It's a simple but so far effective game plan that stand-in skipper Mohammad Hafeez is hoping to replicate on the bouncier WACA surface tomorrow.

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"I don't know about the past but in the last two games our bowlers have done a really great job for us," said Hafeez when asked about Australia's batting worries in ODIs this summer.

"They took wickets at the right time and they put the opposition under tremendous pressure. We believe we can take three or four wickets early on, which gives you more of a chance to attack.

"That's what our bowlers have done in the last two games and we'll try and maintain the same aggressive attitude."

Hafeez all but confirmed Pakistan will name an unchanged line-up for the match ahead of the probable return of regular skipper Azhar Ali for the fourth match in Sydney on Sunday.

Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (c), Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, James Faulkner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Billy Stanlake

Pakistan XI (likely): Mohammad Hafeez (c), Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan

About the Writer

@martinsmith9994
Martin Smith is a writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for Yahoo!7 Sport and Fox Sports.