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2019 World Cup: Defending champions Australia ready for unpredictable Pakistan

Australia are again favored to win the group-stage encounter against Pakistan at Somerset's County Ground on Wednesday, but the odds don't matter. 

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Taunton (UK) Published on: June 11, 2019 20:30 IST
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2019 World Cup: Defending champions Australia ready for unpredictable Pakistan

When Sarfaraz Ahmed says past results mean nothing to his Pakistan team, he genuinely means it.

Few would doubt him, either, particularly rival captains at the Cricket World Cup.

Five-time champion Australia swept Pakistan 5-0 in a one-day international series in March. That extended Australia's winning streak to eight in ODIs after coming back from 2-0 down to win a series 3-2 in India.

Australia are again favored to win the group-stage encounter against Pakistan at Somerset's County Ground on Wednesday, but the odds don't matter. Pakistan was bounced out for 105 in its tournament-opening loss to West Indies but rallied to beat top-ranked England, a pre-tournament title favorite, to end a run of 11 straight defeats.

Sarfaraz and his squad are sick of being dubbed the most unpredictable team in ODI cricket, but it's the most reliable tag for them.

"It's the past. We're not thinking about that," Sarfaraz told a news conference on Tuesday, reflecting on the 5-0 drubbing inflicted by Australia just over two months ago. "Our morale is very high. Momentum is very high. So hopefully we'll do very good against them."

Against England, Pakistan's top order all got starts, with Imam-ul-Haq (44), Fakhar Zaman (36), Babar Azam (63), Mohammad Hafeez (84), and Sarfaraz (55) helping post a total of 348-8. The bowlers kept England to 334-9 in reply.

Australia has won 14 of the last 15 and two-thirds of the 100 completed ODIs overall between the two nations but has only a 5-4 edge in World Cups.

The wins include the 1999 final at Lord's the last time the tournament was in England, and the quarterfinals in 2015 en route to winning the title. Pakistan took the early honors in the '99 tournament with a 10-run win at Leeds in the league phase.

The Australians lost to India by 36 runs at the Oval on Sunday, when David Warner was uncharacteristically cautious in compiling his 56, Steve Smith scored 69, and the run-rate required eventually got way beyond the lower-order in the run chase.

Skipper Aaron Finch predicted Warner is just finding his rhythm and his strike rate will improve.

Allrounder Marcus Stoinis strained his side bowling his second spell against India and will miss the Pakistan game and possibly the rest of the tournament. Mitch Marsh is coming as cover as a precaution, and Finch said he's undecided about whether to add a batter or a bowler to the lineup against Pakistan.

"We heard about Stoinis ... Mitch Marsh is on the way," Sarfaraz said. "We're not thinking about them. I'm thinking about my team, so we'll make good planning against them."

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