The Australian cricket team are riding high on confidence after finally getting the better of India in ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals in Virat Kohli’s own den. They tackled swing and seam brilliantly and they registered their first series win after trailing the five-match series 0-2 as they won the series 3-2, their first win in India after 10 years. The momentum and confidence gained from the series against India has spilled over into the five-match series against Pakistan as Aaron Finch’s brilliant century and a magnificent 91* from Shaun Marsh helped Australia win the first match by eight wickets in Sharjah to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Pakistan would have backed themselves to come up trumps after Haris Sohail scored a maiden century but they were undone by Australia’s aggression and confidence. The hosts chose to bat and they rested six of their key players, including regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup starting in UK from May 30. But the young and inexperienced Pakistan led by Malik proved no match for Australia, who are on a roll after their win in India earlier this month.
Left-hander Sohail, who reached 1,000 runs in his 27th one-day international when on 40, anchored Pakistan's innings, adding 98 for the third wicket with Umar Akmal who made a 50-ball 48 in his first international match for two years. Sohail took a single to complete his hundred in the last over, finishing with six boundaries and a six. Pakistan had handed one-day debuts to opener Shan Masood and Abbas -- who have played 15 and 14 Tests respectively. Masood put on 35 in an opening stand with Imam-ul-Haq (17) before off-spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Imam in the seventh over, caught and bowled.
Masood, who hit five boundaries in his 62-ball 40, was then bowled by paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile who finished with 1-38 in his 10 overs. Umar smashed three sixes in one Jhye Richardson over but fell one short of his half century. Malik fell for 11 and Ashraf and Imad Wasim scored 28 each. Wasim hit four boundaries and a six during his 13-ball unbeaten knock, helping Pakistan to 55 runs in the last five overs as they reached 280/5.
In response, Australia began aggressively with Finch launching Shoaib Malik for a huge six towards deep mid-wicket to complete his century -- his first since June last year against England at Chester-Le-Street -- off 120 balls.Finch, who knocked four sixes and eight boundaries, added an innings-building 172 runs for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh who scored an unbeaten 91 off 102 balls with four boundaries and two sixes. With 46 needed Finch became Mohammad Abbas's maiden wicket but Peter Handscomb hit 30 not out to help Marsh cross the line.
Finch and Marsh came together after opener Usman Khawaja fell for 24 to medium pacer Faheem Ashraf, the only other success Pakistan's new-look bowling attack could achieve. The next match will be played in Sharjah on Sunday.