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The Oz diary : The cards against Pakistan


Having started their visit to the Caribbean with a surprise loss in their warm up against Zimbabwe (that's two out of two for Zimbabwe, incidentally), Australia will be more determined than ever to come out on top in their first World Cup match on Sunday. I know, I know – it was only 1 run, but it really shouldn't have been that tough. There is a positive to the loss in that it has highlighted that the bowling is a weakness in this Australian side. It was mostly the bowling that let them down on Tuesday and no doubt Clarke will be carefully considering his options.
Brett Lee landed yet another injury and will not play again in the tournament. It's a pity, in one sense, because Lee bowled very well against Zimbabwe. It could, however, be a good thing as Clarke has now been sent Ryan Harris who has gone from strength to strength over the last 6 months and can only be good for the Aussie attack. Many would argue that Harris should have been selected over Lee to begin with.
So, on to Sunday's match against Pakistan: I don't imagine I'd get too much argument if I claimed this will be the toughest match in the group stage for Australia. I don't think it's a bad thing to get that difficult match out of the way first up, but the pressure will be on. A win here is going to be crucial for the team's state of mind and it won't hurt their second round prospects, either.
The problem? You can almost guarantee that Pakistan and Pakistani supporters are thinking exactly the same thing about their team now.
Australia need to make the right selections for this match. There have been questions about Clarke's ability as a T20 batsman. His strike rate is a bit dismal, but he is a strong player. Despite moving quite slow at times, he does have the ability to gel the team and his careful batting means he doesn't give his wicket away easily. It's not the exciting stuff we're used to in T20, but is it necessarily a bad thing to have one player drop anchor for the innings while those around him score big runs?
I still maintain, however, that batting won't be our big problem. They need to get the bowling right. Johnson was destructive in the warm up and should be first choice for the match on Sunday. Nannes also showed good form and, so long as there is no more injury talk, is bound to be on the side as well. Hauritz was extremely expensive, but Clarke will know that his main spinner is generally better than that. Steve Smith, however, might be considered the more stable option and it's likely Clarke wouldn't want to risk another 20 run over. Tait should get a look in and his raw power and speed will not be wasted on Pakistan. 
I should think Harris will sit this one out, to give him time to settle in after his 30 hour flight, and there's no need for Paine and Haddin to play. Cameron White should make an appearance instead of Paine, while Mike Mussey (that’s not a spelling error) may play in place of Dan Christian. A top order of White, Warner, Watson and Clarke should be rather formidable. 
Pakistan have a strong side including some serious pace in Aamer, Asif and Sami; Razzaq is quality all round and we all know how dangerous Shahid Afridi can be. Let's not forget that Pakistan still have their pride to salvage; not only are they the reigning champs, but they were recently beaten by a side that crashed out of the 2009 competition after the first round and who have just lost a warm up match to Zimbabwe.
This is going to be one hell of a match and I wouldn't go putting money on either team, as this is way too close to call.
(As the youngest of five children, and with three older brothers, Kirby grew up in a house full of people who love Australian cricket, Geelong football club and rich tea biscuits. She was doomed from birth to wear the green and gold. As an adult she moved to the UK in an attempt to save England cricket fans from themselves, but in return they stole the Ashes. Twice. She firmly believes that Steve Waugh should be knighted, Graeme Swann should be castrated and Nathan Hauritz should be her pet. She blogs over at thoughtsfromthedustbin.blogspot.com)

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