Australia will have their minds fixed firmly on the T20 World Cup when it comes to the decisions made in their series against India, so says Aaron Finch, who will go "back to basics" with the bat.

Finch's team will look to defend their world title on home soil in October and November, though their immediate focus is on a three-match T20I series with India.

The series starts in Mohali on Tuesday, with India aiming to snap a three-match home losing streak in the format to Australia.

Finch, meanwhile, comes into the series on the back of playing his 146th and final ODI for Australia, with the 35-year-old having confirmed his retirement from the 50-over game ahead of his side's final match against New Zealand earlier this month.

Since the beginning of 2018, no player has top scored for Australia in men's T20Is more often than Finch who has led the team's scoresheet on 13 occasions during this span. However, he has struggled for form in ODIs, only getting into double figures once from his last eight matches.

Finch has been better in T20Is, averaging 27.4 in his nine matches in 2022, though the last of those came in June.

 

Asked in a press conference if he would be changing his approach at the crease, Finch said: "I'll be looking to be more aggressive and take a few more risks upfront, but obviously balance that out with the normal process.

"You just have to go in really clear minded. I think the difference between T20s and ODIs is you're expected but you’re also prepared to take a decent amount of risk earlier in your innings.

"It's about being clear minded, working with what I know has worked well in the past and going back to basics in that regard of anything technical or set-up related."

Finch will not have a full-strength team to call on against India, with Mitchell Marsh, David Warner and Marcus Stoinis all left out, while Mitchell Starc is struggling with a minor injury.

As such, Finch is open to experimenting ahead of the tournament, with Steve Smith to bat at three and Tim David set for a debut.

"Every decision that we make has one eye towards the World Cup... so I think we'll be mindful of not being too narrow-minded," Finch said.

"Everything we're doing in the T20 space ties back into the World Cup and for us it's about making sure once we get there, we'll have plenty of different combinations for teams we want to play, because the last thing you want to do is have an injury derail your whole campaign because you're pigeon-holed into playing one style of cricket or one structure of team.

"There'll be a little bit of mixing and matching but with one eye towards the World Cup to make sure we're still as rounded as we can be as a squad."

Hazlewood to lead in-form Australia attack

With Starc injured, the onus will be on Josh Hazlewood to deliver for the tourists with the ball. The seamer has 46 wickets in T20Is, and if he gets four in Tuesday's game (his 31st T20I) to reach the 50 mark, will become the fourth fastest player to reach the milestone for Australia.

Australia's seam bowlers have registered a bowling strike rate of 15 in T20Is in 2022, the best such rate among all full-member sides.

 

Rahul, Kumar eyeing landmarks

KL Rahul was the subject of Rohit Sharma's press conference on Sunday, with the India captain insisting the opener would keep his place at the top of the order, though acknowledging Virat Kohli is an option for the role.

Rahul, who struck 62 against Afghanistan earlier this month, has defended his position, too, saying: "I am just working towards how I can better myself as an opening batter, and see how I can have the most impact for my team whenever I go out to play in the middle."

The 30-year-old is just 37 runs away from reaching 2,000 in T20Is, with only Rohit and Kohli having previously hit the milestone for India. Meanwhile, team-mate Bhuvneshwar Kumar (84) needs two more wickets to become the outright fifth-highest wicket-taker among seam bowlers in T20Is.

Aaron Finch has enjoyed a "fun ride" in his ODI career, after he announced his decision to step away from the 50-over format.

The 35-year-old played his 145th and final ODI for Australia on Sunday, and though he only managed five runs against New Zealand, his team nevertheless sealed a series whitewash in Cairns.

Finch's final 54 matches in the format came as captain, with the opener having revealed his decision to retire from ODIs prior to the match. He will, however, stay on as T20 captain ahead of Australia's defence of their world title next month.

His record in recent ODIs has been poor, with Finch becoming the first Australian to record five ducks in a calendar year in the format. In his final eight such matches, he managed just 31 runs.

Yet Finch was able to look back with pride at his long career.

"Pretty good, means I don't have to field 50 overs anymore," Finch quipped when asked how he was feeling.

"It's been a fun ride. I've loved every bit of it. Sitting around having a beer with your mates after winning a match or series is the thing I'll miss the most, but we'll enjoy tonight."

Finch added: "I want to thank everyone. The staff we've had, the captains I've had right from club cricket. All the players, it's such a special time.

"My wife and family, the support they've given me. My career has had plenty of ups and downs but to always have the support of the changing room is something I've felt my whole career."

While Finch was unable to go out with a flourish, Steve Smith – a potential replacement as ODI skipper – provided the bedrock for Australia to claim a 10th straight home ODI win over New Zealand.

Smith scored 105 from 131 deliveries, with support coming from Marnus Labuschagne (52) and Alex Carey (42), with the Black Caps falling short in the chase to lose by 25 runs.

Steve Smith score a brilliant century as Australia sent ODI captain Aaron Finch off in style with a 25-run win over New Zealand in the third and final match of their series.

Finch had announced prior to the game this would be his final ODI and, though he made just five in Cairns, team-mate Smith excelled, his 105 from 131 balls helping the hosts to 267-5 – Marnus Labuschagne (52) adding a valuable half-century as Australia sealed a series whitewash.

Several in New Zealand's line-up made starts but failed to build big totals, Glenn Phillips' middle-order partnerships with Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner not proving enough to make the chase.

Finch was given a guard of honour and a handshake with opposite number Kane Williamson after a minute's silence was held as a mark of respect following the death of the Queen.

Some textbook swing bowling from Tim Southee meant there was no dream send-off for Finch, but Smith, a contender to be the new ODI captain, led the way.

His century off 126 was the slowest of his career, though his second fifty runs came off only 46.

He and Labuschagne focused mostly on surviving, but Alex Carey (42) added 69 with Smith in 10 overs to boost the run rate, before the latter was bowled by Santner.

New Zealand made 49 for the opening wicket before Devon Conway was caught by Smith at backward point and the tourists struggled to score runs freely, tumbling to 112-5.

Phillips' work with Neesham and Santner made sure Australia had to push hard for their win but ultimately New Zealand fell short, Mitchell Starc finishing 3-60 to wrap up the series.

Spectacular Smith

It was not just Smith's work with the bat that proved so influential. He also made important catches from Conway, Mitchell and Neesham to knock New Zealand off their stride.

While Santner was able to keep the pace going, his dismissal and Phillips' exit brought an end to any hopes of a turnaround.

Finch farewell

After 145 ODI caps, Finch's illustrious spell in the format will come to an end but it was unfortunate he could not go out with a bang. The home supporters gave him the send-off he deserves, however, and he issued his backing to Smith to succeed him prior to Sunday's final match.

Finch departs having guided Australia to a 10th straight ODI win on home turf against New Zealand, a run that dates back to 2009. Indeed, they have now won their last five matches against their neighbours in the format (home or away), which matches a winning streak they enjoyed against the Black Caps between November 2006 and February 2007.

A big score for struggling New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is only just around the corner, insists head coach Gary Stead.

New Zealand have already lost their three-match ODI series in Australia going into Sunday's final encounter, with the hosts having won the first two contests.

Australia won an entertaining opener by two wickets before New Zealand were skittled for just 82 in a miserable second ODI for the Black Caps.

Williamson has been out of form for a while – his last international century was his incredible 238 in a Test match against Pakistan in January 2021, while he last hit three figures in white-ball cricket back in June 2019 in an ODI against West Indies.

Stead believes Williamson is being judged slightly unfairly, as his form was unsustainably good before he suffered an elbow injury, and is convinced the New Zealand skipper will soon get back to something close to his best.

"It's always difficult when you have had such a prolific run-scorer as what Kane has been," Stead said.

"I think what everyone remembers is immediately before his elbow injury, when he was in the richest vein of form that perhaps some players have ever been in.

"Kane is one of the hardest workers I have seen on his game and he continues to be.

"A big score is around the corner. Kane is a very, very consistent trainer. Regardless of if he is scoring runs or not, he appears to me to train the same way."

Australia have won their last four ODIs against New Zealand, their longest winning run since a five-game streak that concluded in 2007.

And a victory in the third ODI would give Australia a 10th straight home win against the Black Caps, with their current nine-match run at home already their best ever. 

New Zealand have not won an ODI in Australia since 2009, but amid the team's woe, Stead also backed Williamson's credentials as captain.

Williamson was criticised for taking Trent Boult out of the attack at a key stage in the first ODI and has faced questions over his future in the role, talk not helped by deputy Tom Latham's huge success in ODIs where the regular skipper has been missing.

Stead added: "You are always reflecting on how we go about it and what we might do differently. We all make mistakes from time to time.

"Who knows what's right anyway? That's the tough thing about the game of cricket. One decision you make will work one day and the next day it won't.

"You try to put odds in your favour at any given moment. If you go through and dissect every ball, you'll find something to talk about.

"That's the decision of the leaders who are out in the middle and we know as a matter of fact that the bowler can bowl only 10 overs.

"So it is up to Kane and the other guys who are out there to work out when is the right time and what looks right then."

Australia skipper Aaron Finch will be playing his last ODI on Sunday after announcing his retirement from the 50-over format.

Australia's one-day captain Aaron Finch announced on Friday that the next ODI against New Zealand will be his last before retiring from the 50-over format.

Finch, 35, will finish with 145 ODI matches and 54 as captain, but will continue to lead the T20 side. 

While his record is strong, boasting 5401 runs at an average of 39.42, he has struggled mightily lately as he became the first Australian to record five ODI ducks in a calendar year. In his past seven ODIs, he has 26 runs and three ducks.

Speaking to the media at his retirement press conference, Finch said now was the time to step away to allow a new leader to get acclimated ahead of the World Cup.

"It has been a fantastic ride with some incredible memories," he said. 

"I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of some brilliant one-day sides. Equally, I have been blessed by all those I have played with and the many people behind the scenes.

"It is time now to give a new leader the best possible opportunity to prepare for and win the next World Cup. I thank all of those who have helped and supported my journey to this point."

Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley added: "On behalf of Australian Cricket, I would like to congratulate Aaron on his vast contribution as captain of the Australian Men’s ODI team and as a wonderful exponent of the 50-over format.

"Aaron is an enormously gifted and determined player whose outstanding deeds with the bat have been matched by his strong and inspiring leadership. His decision to step aside from the ODI captaincy now is typical of his selfless approach to the game.

"I'm delighted Aaron will lead the Australian team into the forthcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup where his leadership, experience and tactical nous will be integral to the defence of our T20 World Cup title on home soil."

Kane Williamson has no immediate desire to leave his role as New Zealand captain or the Black Caps' set-up, though he sees the appeal of big-money offers from elsewhere.

New Zealand face Australia in a three-match ODI series starting on Tuesday in Cairns, Queensland, looking to end a 13-year search for a 50-over win in the country.

They will do so without a key player in the form of Colin de Grandhomme, who last week announced his international retirement.

De Grandhomme's decision came after he had taken up an offer to play for the  Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League, which clashed with his New Zealand duties.

Trent Boult, the world's best ODI bowler who has taken 36 per cent of the Black Caps' wickets when he has played in the format in 2022, is another player who has been released from his New Zealand Cricket central contract.

Paceman Boult is included in the 15-man squad to face Aaron Finch's side, but this year's T20 World Cup might well prove the 33-year-old's swansong on the international stage.

 

Williamson himself is no stranger to playing in lucrative competitions such as the Indian Premier League, having featured for Sunrisers Hyderabad since 2015.

However, the 32-year-old has no plans to call time on his New Zealand career as he aims to end a seven-match losing streak against Australia in the 50-over game.

"It's a tricky one because it is changing - so much seems to have happened so quickly," Williamson told reporters. "It does seem to be a movement in the landscape of the game.

"Every case is unique and every case has got their individual needs at different stages of their lives.

"There are a lot of different franchise events happening and seeing players make decisions on their playing careers, it suggests that there is a balance to strike and some things to work through.

"At the moment I'm very much here and looking to do my very best for the team. I love being involved in this environment."

The series is the first between the two rivals – who faced off in last year's T20 World Cup final – since the start of 2020, with only one match played on that occasion before New Zealand's team travelled home with borders closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is not set to be another bilateral ODI series between the nations for the next four years.

While they have not lost an ODI on home soil to New Zealand since 2009, Australia will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats at home for the first time since January 2019, following their shock three-wicket reverse at the hands of Zimbabwe last week, though they did at least win that series 2-1.

 

Finch's cause for concern

Australia's World Cup-winning captain is not in fine fettle. He scored just 21 runs across three innings against Zimbabwe and is going up against a fearsome bowling attack this time out.

Finch's record against New Zealand is nothing to shout about, either, with his 17.2 average from 10 ODIs the worst against any nation in the format. With the World Cup just around the corner, he will be desperate to hit his stride.

"Across his career, it's ebbed and flowed. His movement patterns sometimes early in his innings are compromised, whether that's through perceived pressure that he puts on himself or what the bowler does," head coach Andrew McDonald said of Finch's form. "We are working through it. He's working hard on his game."

Southee chasing a milestone

New Zealand have won nine of their 10 ODIs in 2022 (L1) – only Scotland (W12) and India (W11) have won more games this year.

In Boult and Southee, they have a brilliant bowling duo. The latter is three wickets away from becoming the fifth Black Cap to take 200 in the format, while if he achieves that in Tuesday's opener (his 147th ODI) he will be the second-quickest player to the landmark (after Kyle Mills – 135 matches).

Australia has named its 15-player squad for their upcoming T20 World Cup defence with uncapped all-rounder Tim David included as the major bolter.

The Australians will look to defend their T20 title in the tournament that runs from October 16 to November 13 in Australia and New Zealand.

Globetrotting T20 star David is the major surprise in the squad and the only change from last year's group that lifted the world title in UAE, replacing spinner Mitchell Swepson.

Australia's squad includes the usual suspects such as David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith and vice-captain Pat Cummins. Mitch Marsh is selected despite a recent ankle concern.

Skipper Aaron Finch, 35, had been under some pressure to hold his spot but is named, with the group also to travel to face India in three T20 Internationals in September in preparation. Warner will be rested for the India tour with Cameron Green taking his place.

National Selection Panel chair of selectors George Bailey said: "This is a similar squad to that which became the first Australian’s men’s team to win a T20 World Cup who are now very excited about playing the tournament at home.

"Mitchell Swepson was unlucky to miss out based on conditions in the UAE at the last World Cup where we planned for tired, spinning wickets compared to what we would expect are good batting conditions along with the larger grounds in Australia.

"Tim continues to establish himself with some quality performances in leagues around the world, earning a place in the squad. He is a highly gifted, natural ball striker who will add extra batting depth to the group which has had a lot of success in T20 cricket.

"We expect him to play a similar role to that he has been playing in the past few years."

David, who previously represented the country of his birth Singapore in 14 T20Is in 2019 and 2020, has impressed in global T20 leagues including with the Mumbai Indians in the IPL, the Southern Brave in The Hundred and the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League.

The 26-year-old has amassed 1,874 runs at a strike rate of 168.4 in 86 T20 games over the past two years in a late-overs batting role, with part-time off-breaks.

David's strike rate of 216.28 in eight matches with the Mumbai Indians earlier this year was the highest by any player to have faced at least 50 balls in a single IPL season.

Josh Philippe, Ben McDermott, Sean Abbott, Jhye Richardson and Swepson were among the unlucky players to miss out on selection.

Australia faces India in the first of their three T20Is on September 20 in Mohali, with their first World Cup match against New Zealand in Sydney on October 22.

Australia's T20 World Cup squad: Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins (vc), Tim David, Aaron Finch (c), Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, David Warner*, Adam Zampa. 

* Will be replaced by Cameron Green for three T20Is, September 20-26, in India

Glenn Maxwell was delighted to be able to keep his cool and smarts under pressure after guiding Australia to a two-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Tuesday's ODI with a Man of the Match knock.

Maxwell arrived at the crease at 189-5, requiring 113 off 84 deliveries in pursuit of chasing Sri Lanka's 300-7 in a rain-affected game in Kandy.

The Australian all-rounder bludgeoned a thrilling unbeaten 80 from 51 balls to guide the tourists home with nine balls to spare on D/L method.

Maxwell's knock included 12 boundaries, with six fours and six sixes, reaching his half-century from 35 balls, before accelerating to finish the job and take a 1-0 lead in the five-game ODI series.

"Certainly is [a satisfying knock], coming in when I did," Maxwell said after the game.

"There were a few wickets down and we were under a bit of pressure. To be able to hold together at the end and play, as [coach Andrew McDonald] Ronnie just said, one of my 'smarter innings,' is nice.

"And when conditions aren't as favourable for the batting side, that was really pleasing."

Maxwell's innings came amid pressure from Sri Lanka's Wanindu Hasarange who claimed 4-58 including the wickets of Alex Carey and Pat Cummins with Maxwell down the other end.

"I was just trying to stay out there as long as I could," said Maxwell, who took 15 runs off Maheesh Theekshana in the 37th over to lower the run rate required below six.

"I knew I was going to get balls to score off in my areas at some stage, and I was just trying to take risks at the right time.

"I think when the left arm spinner came back on, I think there was only three overs left, I think that was a good opportunity to try and get the run rate down under six, and then try and do it in the next over without letting it get to the last over because all sorts of chaos could happen in the last."

Australia skipper Aaron Finch praised Maxwell for his decisive knock.

"That innings by Maxwell, that was pure class," Finch said. "Showed a lot of skill, lot of game smarts as well. Fantastic chase.

"We were always one wicket behind where we would have liked to have been. We were always two or three down, when we would have liked to have been able to build a partnership but that was an extraordinary innings from Maxwell."

Dasun Shanaka is confident Sri Lanka can claim a shock win over world champions Australia in a T20 International series that starts in Colomba on Tuesday.

The visitors previously beat their hosts 4-1 in a five-match series in February on home soil after winning the T20 World Cup for the first time in Dubai.

Aaron Finch's side have since won a one-off match in Pakistan despite being without a whole host of players.

They are close to full strength for the start of the three-match series, with Finch and Marcus Stoinis the only players who featured in that win in Lahore who have named in the team for the opener at the R.Premadasa Stadium.

Yet Sri Lanka captain Shanaka believes his side can make the most of the conditions on the back of a triumph for the Test side against Bangladesh in such tough times due to a financial crisis in the country.

He said: "We gained much playing Australia in their own backyard last time out and I'm confident that we are well geared in the batting and bowling to get the better of them with our home conditions in our favour."

Shanaka added: "Lots of our players have benefited by playing in the recent IPL and that experience would be a leading edge to maximising their potential when Sri Lanka locks horns with the Australians strong as they are.

"A positive factor for our players at the IPL is that they have gained the opportunity of flexing their muscles in gay abandon, unlike back home where the domestic season has been plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in several players being laid down, while the adverse weather has been a negating factor as well."

Sri Lanka have named uncapped duo Nuwanidu Fernando, a top-order batter, and Matheesha Pathirana, a right-arm seamer, in their squad early in a new era under head coach Chris Silverwood.

The tourists are without Pat Cummins (rested) and Adam Zampa (parental leave), while Michael Di Venuto is filling in at the start of the series after head coach Andrew McDonald was forced into isolation back home following a positive COVID-19 test.

 

Finch in the spotlight

Australia captain Finch endured a frustrating Indian Premier League, scoring only 86 runs in five innings for Kolkata Knight Riders.

The opener did make 55 in his last game for his country, the T20I success over Pakistan, and the tourists will be looking for him to set the tone at the top of the order with the T20 World Cup on home soil fast approaching.

Hasaranga key for Sri Lanka

If Sri Lanka are to pull off an upset, Wanindu Hasaranga will surely have a big part to play after an excellent IPL for the spinner.

The tweaker was the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament behind with 26 at an average of 17.65 for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Maheesh Theekshana can also trouble the tourists as they face a trial by spin.

Aaron Finch's half-century and Ben McDermott's composure proved to be decisive as Australia defeated Pakistan by three wickets in Tuesday's thrilling one-off T20I.

Pakistan won the ODI series thanks in large part to the brilliance of captain Babar Azam and his superb 66 propelled the hosts to a competitive 162-8 in Lahore.

Babar's composure at the crease was much-needed for Pakistan, who lost Mohammad Rizwan (23) and Fakhar Zaman (0) in successive balls to T20I debutant Cameron Green (2-16).

Adam Zampa finally drew a stray shot out of Pakistan's skipper, who picked out Nathan Ellis to leave his side on 118-4.

Having already dismissed Iftikhar Ahmed, Ellis – the pick of Australia's bowlers with 4-28 – then did the damage through Pakistan's middle order, getting rid of the dangerous Khushdil Shah (24), Asif Ali (3) and Shaheen Shah Afridi (0), though Usman Qadir's flurry of 18 not out boosted the hosts.

Travis Head quickly set about getting the tourists' chase on its way, scoring a rapid 26 that included four boundaries before he was sent packing by Haris Rauf.

Josh Inglis (24) kept up the pace until Qadir struck, but Australia seemed well set before Marnus Labuschagne, Marcus Stoinis and Green were dismissed in the space of 20 balls.

Yet captain Finch anchored the chase as he returned to form following back-to-back ducks in the ODI series, with his steady innings steering Australia into needing 15 runs from three overs.

A costly start to the 18th over from Haris saw McDermott plunder successive boundaries, though the pressure was back on Australia when Finch found Asif in the deep.

Afridi (2-21) rounded off an excellent spell by bowling Sean Abbott for a duck, yet another poor Haris ball handed McDermott the chance to clip away the winning boundary.

Captains come up big

Babar gave yet another exhibition of how he has risen to the top of the batting rankings in another sensational knock - his 66 coming at a strike rate of 143.47.

Yet it was World Cup winner Finch who took the trophy, as he showed plenty of patience to stay at the crease for 18 overs, showing why interim head coach Andrew McDonald backed him to stay on as skipper.

Historic tour comes to a close

It has been a brilliant match-up between Pakistan and Australia over the last month or so and the tourists will finally return home.

Australia have now won each of their past four T20Is against Pakistan, the first time they have gone on such a run, though this was the first meeting in the format between the teams in Pakistan.

Andrew McDonald has backed out-of-form captain Aaron Finch to lead Australia in the T20 World Cup this year ahead of a one-off match against Pakistan at Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday.

Opener Finch was dismissed without scoring in the second and third ODIs as the tourists suffered a 2-1 loss to a Babar Azam-inspired Pakistan side last week.

The skipper has not scored an international half-century since last July, but Australia interim head coach McDonald says he remains the man to lead his country when they attempt to defend their T20 World Cup title on home soil.

"From my end, there's no conversation around the [prospect] that he won't be there," said McDonald.

"His form can ebb and flow – like most players' can – and his ability to work through these patches has been significant in his career.

"We had the same conversation about David Warner leading into the T20 World Cup last [year], so all these conversations are going to happen.

"Do we think he's still good enough to play this level? One hundred per cent yes. That's as simple as it gets for us and we're building a team around him as captain.

"It's a pretty significant pillar to be discussing about not being at the T20 World Cup. From our end, we think he can still play at this level, 100 per cent."

Finch will be one of only three players who are set to face Pakistan in Lahore that were part of the side that won the World Cup in Dubai last November.

Australia will be looking for a fourth consecutive T20 win over Pakistan, but they will have their work cut out as the hosts have come out on top in 10 of their past 11 home matches in the shortest format.

Babar a class apart

Captain Babar made back-to-back centuries to give Pakistan a first ODI series win over Australia for 20 years.

The irrepressible skipper has made a staggering three hundreds, as many half-centuries and 36 in his past five knocks for his country - demonstrating his class in all formats.

As the top-ranked player in the world in both white-ball formats, Australia must find a way to remove Babar before he is set.

McDermott and Head vying for opening spot

Either Ben McDermott or Travis Head look set to open with Finch in the only T20 match before Australia head home.

There was good news for the tourists when Ashton Agar and Josh Inglis returned negative COVID-19 tests, while Marnus Labuschagne and Cameron Green are in contention to make their T20I debuts.

Babar Azam hailed Pakistan's "historic" series win over Australia after scoring another century in a nine-wicket victory.

Pakistan bowled Australia all out for 210 before comfortably chasing down their target, thanks largely to the efforts of top-order batsmen Babar (105 not out) and Imam-ul-Haq (89 not out).

Babar also recorded triple figures in Pakistan's second ODI victory on Thursday, and his consecutive centuries proved decisive in the hosts beating Australia in back-to-back home ODIs for the first time since 1982.

Writing on Twitter after his crucial haul, Babar referred to his team-mates as "superstars" and thanked Pakistan's fans for their support in Lahore.

"A historic series win for Pakistan," wrote Babar, who has now plundered 16 ODI career centuries.

"[I] couldn't have asked for more from my pack of superstars, excellent performances from Imam, Shaheen Shah Afridi, and Haris Rauf.

"To all our fans, thank you so much for your massive support!"

Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq posted: "This is historical, winning the ODI series against Australia 2-1 at home.

"Some phenomenal performances [were] witnessed by the batsmen and bowlers. Keep supporting our great Pakistan!"

Before failing to remove either Babar or Imam as they struggled with the ball, Australia lost their highest run-scorer of the series, Travis Head, to the first delivery of their own innings, leaving skipper Aaron Finch to bemoan a failure to set their hosts a more difficult target.

"We didn't get enough runs," Finch told reporters. "When you go three down in the first few overs, it's always going to be hard to get a big total."

Aaron Finch stated that inexperience is no excuse for Australia not to target victory in their one-day series against Pakistan.

Australia edged out a hard-fought Test series 1-0, in what was an emotional tour for a variety of off-field reasons.

Three ODIs, originally scheduled to be held in Rawalpindi only to be moved to Lahore due to political unrest in Pakistan, now await before a solitary Twenty20.

The results will factor into the World Super League, with Australia sitting in seventh place, three spots above Babar Azam's team.

Australia have only played four ODIs since December 2020, and the last of those was back in July against West Indies.

They are also without some key names. Steve Smith has been ruled out due to an elbow injury, while Kane Richardson has been left at home to nurse a hamstring issue. Test captain Pat Cummins will not feature, and neither will Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, David Warner or Glenn Maxwell.

On Monday, meanwhile, Finch was dealt a further blow by news of a hip injury for Mitchell Marsh, who will miss the first match, and that wicketkeeper Josh Inglis had tested positive for COVID-19. Yet the T20 World Cup-winning skipper was in no mood to make excuses.

"Our goal 100 per cent is to win this series," Finch told reporters.

"We still feel like we have a squad to do that even though it is inexperienced. At times that can be a blessing because you have guys who can play freely and express themselves.

"It's about trying to build the depth of the squad and build experience in players. It's a really good opportunity. With every decision we make there is one eye towards the 50-over World Cup and to tie everything back to that is really important."

 

Cameron Green, who impressed in the Tests but has played just one ODI, will replace Marsh in the first ODI, while Alex Carey is set to slot in behind the stumps.

"Cam will play and probably bat in that middle-order role," Finch said. "We've seen he's a super talented cricketer. He's someone who has been quite consistent in his Test career, his impact with the bat and ball can't be understated. Really excited for Cam to get that opportunity."

Finch closing in on Warner and Waugh

Finch has not been in the best of form as of late. He last played an ODI in December 2020, against India, while he only scored above 10 on two occasions in the five-match T20 series against Sri Lanka earlier in 2022.

However, the 35-year-old is only one century away from equalling Warner and Mark Waugh on 18 ODI tons, which would put him joint-second on Australia's all-time list, behind Ricky Ponting, who is way ahead on 29.

Finch at least heads into the series knowing Australia have a fine record against Pakistan in 50-over matches, having won 15 of their last 16 such meetings, including triumphing in their last nine on the bounce, with the sole defeat coming in January 2017.

Australia also like playing in Lahore, winning four of their seven ODIs at the Gaddafi Stadium.

Finch's hopes of improving his place in the Aussie record books are also boosted by the fact that Australian batters have scored nine ODI centuries since the start of 2020, which is second only to South Africa (10) in that timeframe.

 

Another milestone approaches for Babar 

Finch's counterpart Babar batted well in the Test series, scoring a brilliant 196 in the second match and amassing 122 runs across his two innings in the final game, albeit to no avail.

The Pakistan captain needs just 15 runs to become the 15th player from his country to register 4,000 in ODIs. Should he manage it in his next innings, he will become the second-fastest batter to reach the milestone (82 matches), after Hashim Amla (81).

Babar and Pakistan will have to watch Adam Zampa closely. The spinner is just three wickets away from becoming Australia's 18th bowler to take 100 in 50-over cricket, while his best figures against Pakistan were 4-43 in March 2019.

The hosts, too, are blooding new players. Uncapped duo Asif Afridi and Mohammad Harris have been called up, while Abdullah Shafique, who scored 397 runs across six innings in the Test series, is in line for his ODI debut.

Australia were only crowned T20 World Cup champions in November, but their home series against Sri Lanka is the start of their preparations for a title defence.

The holders will host the next World Cup, which is to take place in October and November this year.

Meanwhile, a three-match T20 series against New Zealand planned for next month had to be scrapped due to COVID-19 concerns, but the immediate focus is on hosting Sri Lanka.

There has, of course, been plenty of off-field upheaval in the last week with coach Justin Langer resigning, but there is no better way for Australia to put that recent disturbance behind them and begin a new era than by consolidating their place at the pinnacle of the shortest format with a convincing series victory.

The series takes in five matches, starting in Sydney on Friday and also visiting Canberra and Melbourne.

Aaron Finch will be unable to call on two of his key performers from last year's World Cup run, with David Warner and Mitchell Marsh rested after their Ashes exploits.

That means that Ben McDermott has earned a recall, and Josh Inglis comes into the line-up at number three for a debut.

"The first series after the World Cup win, so it's really exciting to have a lot of new guys around the side as well and I guess quite a bit of pressure on after winning the World Cup," Finch told reporters.

"It does raise expectation. But we feel as though we've played some really good T20 cricket recently, so we're excited about that."

History on Australia's side

Australia have won their last five men's T20I matches against Sri Lanka, their longest active winning streak against any Test-playing nation in this format. 

Finch's team have also tasted victory in their last four T20Is. They last won more matches in a row in this format between February 2019 and February 2020, a streak of eight wins that included beating Sri Lanka on three occasions.

The series starts at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where Australia have won five of their eight men's T20I matches (L3).

However, these three losses have been suffered in their last five matches at this venue, and this will be the first time they take on Sri Lanka at the SCG.

But Sri Lanka have only one win from their previous four T20Is played away from home. They had won all four of their matches prior to this run in this format, though.   

Hazlewood and Zampa out to do the damage

Adam Zampa was a star of the World Cup and he has fine form against Sri Lanka, with no player having taken more wickets in this fixture than the spinner's 16. Indeed, he has more wickets in this format against Sri Lanka than any other team.

Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka are two exciting batsmen for the tourists, but they will be up against a formidable bowling attack spearheaded by Test captain Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. 

No player has more wickets during a powerplay in T20Is since the beginning of 2021 than Hazlewood, who has 14 dismissals to his name during this period.

Wanindu Hasaranga took 2-22 against Australia in Dubai and could be a dangerman, but Sri Lanka's fielding let them down last year. Indeed, since the start of 2021, they have a catch success rate of just 75 per cent in T20Is, the poorest of all the Test-playing nations.

Looking to take advantage of any sloppiness will be Finch. The Australia skipper has topped the scorecard 18 times in T20Is since the beginning of 2015, seven more occasions than any of his team-mates. In fact, only three players have a better record for their respective countries among Test-playing nations in the shortest format (Rohit Sharma – 23, Paul Stirling – 19 and Virat Kohli – 19).  

Australian batsman Usman Khawaja says Test skipper or white-ball skipper Aaron Finch needs to come out and explain Justin Langer's exit as head coach.

Khawaja, who returned to the Test side during the Ashes after more than two years outside the team, was named in Australia's squad for next month's Pakistan Test series.

The 35-year-old admitted he was sad for "the person" when Langer resigned as Australia head coach amid a messy exit with talk of a player revolt.

Langer spent almost four years in the head coaching role but resigned on Saturday, rejecting a six-month contract extension.

The 51-year-old's exit comes after leading Australia to a 4-0 Ashes triumph and a stunning T20 World Cup victory which has raised eyebrows, yet there have been rumblings of internal issues.

"I just came back in the team two months ago. I've been a little bit out of it, a little bit disconnected, but there's obviously a lot of ex-players coming and talking about the playing group," Khawaja told reporters on Tuesday.

"At some stage, one of the captains, probably Finchy or Patty, will probably have to stand up and answer some questions just to get rid of all the speculation that's going around. To just put an end to it all."

Khawaja said Langer had tried to take on player feedback and insisted "always got along with him".

But several key members of the Australian side, including Cummins, failed to publicly back Langer for a contract extension in the lead-up to Saturday's announcement.

"It's part of speculation which I don't think is really healthy. I just don't want to add to it," Cummins said on Thursday when asked about a contract renewal for Langer.

"That's Cricket Australia's job. It's not my job. I've really loved my time working with JL and we've had an evaluation process. I've been part of that, a lot of other players and staff have been part of that.

"Just like when we get evaluated. I've got huge respect for JL, really like working with him. But it's not my call."

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