Australia one-day international (ODI) captain Michael Clarke is expecting the Sharjah pitch to favour spin bowlers in Saturday’s one-off match against Afghanistan.
It’s a huge moment for Afghanistan, who have played only one other ODI against a full-member nation, having lost to Pakistan by seven wickets in February.
For Clarke, it’s a chance to get his side back into gear ahead of their three-match ODI series against Pakistan starting on Tuesday in Sharjah.
It’s Australia’s first hit-out since their 4-0 ODI series defeat against England last month.
“When we left England we were still the No.1-ranked team in the world,” Clarke said on Friday.
“Because of other teams playing, we’ve slipped back down to four.
“But to me it’s about playing really good consistent cricket all around the world and I know we’ll get back to being No.1.
“No doubt Pakistan’s on my mind but our focus as a team has been on Afghanistan.
“After Saturday’s game we’ll sit down then and look at the Pakistan side.”
Australia’s 15-man squad includes uncapped duo Alister McDermott and Glenn Maxwell.
Clarke says he’ll discuss a final 11 with selector-on-duty Rod Marsh and acting head coach Steve Rixon.
“The wicket looks quite hard. There’s no grass on it at all,” Clarke said.
Australia’s spin attack will be led by Xavier Doherty, with possible help from Steve Smith, Maxwell, Clarke and David Hussey.
“As the game goes on there’ll probably be a little bit more spin,” Clarke said.
“They (Afghanistan) know the conditions a lot better than we do.”
Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mangal says spin could be his side’s trump card on their home ground.
“We are working on our spinners a lot,” he said.
“This will be a huge moment for every single one of us, playing against the mighty Australians.
“We have dreams to play against such teams we grew up watching on TV.”
The match is due to start at 6pm local time (midnight AEST) to avoid the heatwave conditions of earlier in the day.