Pakistan seems primed to win their second title but it will take a special effort to upstage a tenacious Australia, which is peaking at the right time, in the second semifinal of the T20 World Cup.
Pakistan has turned it around following its first-round exit in 2016. The Babar Azam-led side has defied the odds to become the team to beat and the 2009 champions are the only team that remains undefeated in the ongoing tournament.
The last time these two met in the semifinals of a T20 World Cup, Australia, inspired by Mike Hussey, had beaten Pakistan in a thriller.
But in the ongoing edition, the Men in Green have resisted crumbling under pressure and are comfortable in the UAE, having hosted several seasons of the Pakistan Super League and their home matches here since the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan team shut down international cricket in their country.
Following a historic win over India where they looked completely invincible, Pakistan has shown very few chinks in their armour against New Zealand and Afghanistan.
The formidable top-order, led by the tournament's leading run-scorer Azam (264), who has four half-centuries against his name, is expected to deliver once again but Australia's bowling attack will also be ready and waiting to capitalise on any slip-up.
Also read: Pakistan vs Australia T20 World Cup semifinal: Head to head, leading run-scorers, highest wicket-takers and other records
In case the opening duo of Azam and Mohammad Rizwan fail, Pakistan have an array of match-winners in the middle order in the form of six-hitting machine Asif Ali and veterans Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, who all are among the runs.
However, the team would be expecting more from Fakhar Zaman, the only one to have not made a significant contribution with the bat yet.
Their bowling attack has been as impressive as their batting unit if not more. Pacers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf have troubled batters but Hasan Ali has had an ordinary tournament and, although skipper Azam has backed the speedster to come good, Australia is likely to target him.
Spinners Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez and Shadab Khan will be skipper Azam's main weapons against Australia, a side that struggles against spin in general.
Where to watch LIVE:
The match will be played at the Dubai International Stadium. The toss will take place at 7 pm (IST), while the match will begin at 7.30 pm (IST). The India vs New Zealand game will be telecast LIVE on Star Sports Network.
Live streaming of the match is available on Disney+ Hotstar.
You can catch the LIVE blog of the game on CNBCTV18.com.
On the other hand, Australia, the 2010 runners-up, are beginning to peak at the right time in their bid to win their only missing title.
Apart from the eight-wicket mauling by England, Aaron Finch and Co. have registered dominant wins which helped them book a semifinal slot ahead of South Africa.
Their formidable pace attack has been incisive, and leg spinner Adam Zampa, who has the second most wickets in the tournament, has struck regularly in the middle overs.
In pacers Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins and Zampa, Australia has all bases covered in the bowling department.
All-rounders Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh have provided breakthroughs with the ball as well and they also have the option to play left-arm spinner, Ashton Agar.
Also read: ENG vs NZ, T20 World Cup Match Highlights: Mitchell (72* off 47), Neesham (27 off 11) fire New Zealand into the Finals
The biggest confidence booster for Australia would be David Warner's return to form. The opener entered the tournament on the back of a woeful run in T20s but has brushed that aside with two half-centuries, including an 89 not out in the previous game.
Warner and Finch make for a formidable opening pair that can take any opposition attack to the cleaners.
Marsh at No 3. has also been among the runs. The ever-reliable Steve Smith is there to stabilise the innings in case of a batting collapse although his strike rate has been under scrutiny.
Maxwell has not exactly set the tournament on fire yet, and the team will be relying on him, Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade to provide a bagful of runs in the last five overs.
As is the trend, teams chasing win the matches here, so the toss will once again be crucial.
Pakistan probable XI: Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Shah Afridi
Australia probable XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood.
Pakistan has won 13 of the 22 T20Is played between the two sides while Australia has won nine. In T20 World Cups, both sides have three victories each.
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Dubai International Stadium T20I stats:
Total matches played: 72
Matches won batting first: 34
Matches won bowling first: 37
Average 1st Inns scores: 141
Average 2nd Inns scores: 123
Highest total recorded: 211/6
Lowest total recorded: 55/10
Highest score chased: 183/5 (19.4 overs)
Lowest score defended: 134/7 (20 overs)
While there is no possibility of any rain, the conditions will be hot and humid.
Dubai has seen more dew than the other two venues, making defending a target challenging. With the team batting first winning only a single match toss will be a crucial factor.
With inputs from agencies.
First Published: IST