The ODI series between Pakistan and Australia which will be played in March is interesting for three reasons. It is the final international bilateral series for both sides before the start of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup which will be played in England from May 31. The series could potentially see the return of David Warner and Steve Smith, whose year-long bans end in March. There was also a slim chance that Australia might play a couple of games in Pakistan. However, the Pakistan Cricket Board has confirmed that Cricket Australia will not send the team to Pakistan for the ODIs and that all matches will be played in the UAE.
"The PCB was optimistic that it will be able to convince Cricket Australia to send its side for some matches after successfully staging high-profile bilateral series and the Pakistan Super League matches in the past 18 months,” Zakir Khan, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Director Cricket - International, said.
Australia last toured Pakistan in 1998 for an ODI and Test series and under the captaincy of Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, Australia won the Test series 1-0 and clean swept the ODI series 3-0. Ever since the security situation in the country deteriorated, teams like Australia, England and South Africa have refused to tour the country, with England and South Africa’s last trips in 2005 and 2007. In the last 18 months, Pakistan has hosted the ICC World XI, also comprising Australia Test captain Tim Paine and fast bowler Ben Cutting, in September 2017. A month later, Sri Lanka played a T20I at the same venue. In April 2018, Karachi was the venue for three-T20I series between the Windies and Pakistan. Last month, the Windies women's team played three T20Is against Pakistan women's team in Karachi.
Pakistan will play five ODIs from March 22 to March 31, with Sharjah hosting the first two games followed by a game in Abu Dhabi. Dubai will host the last two games and the game on March 29 could see the time Smith and Warner could play in the Australia cricket team. The duo was banned by Cricket Australia for one year after they were found guilty of ball-tampering during the Newlands Test against South Africa.
Warner and Smith played in the Bangladesh Premier League but both their campaigns were cut short due to an elbow injury. While Warner is on track to recover and he could play in the series, the fitness of Smith is a concern. The right-hander underwent surgery but he will be in a cast for six weeks following which he will undergo rehabilitation on the injury in late February, which will likely need several weeks to regain strength from muscle wastage.
Australia is the five-time world champions and are currently sixth in the ICC rankings. Recently, they lost the three-match ODI series to India 1-2. Before the Pakistan series, Australia will play two T20Is and five ODIs against India.