A James Faulkner bowling masterclass and an excellent innings by captain Steve Smith helped Australia to a crucial 21 run victory as they knocked Pakistan out of the World T20.
Middle order middle everything
Usman Khawaja set about bringing his Big Bash League form to the World T20 as he set about attacking the Pakistan bowlers, with Mohammad Sami in particular receiving some early treatment. Though the returning Wahab Riaz was in inspired form, as an aggressive spell picked up a couple of important early wickets. Khawaja was the first man to fall, as Riaz knocked his stumps out of the ground for 22. New man David Warner did not last much longer as another quick delivery had the same outcome as the number three was dismissed for just nine.
The incoming Aaron Finch had looked nervous at the other end whilst Riaz worked his magic and he eventually departed for 15, as Imad Wasim also sent his stumps flying. Australia found themselves 57-3 and were in desperate need of a couple of partnerships. Their exciting middle order duly delivered.
Australia batsmen are not known for playing on the defensive and Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson set their stall to counter-attack. A typical Maxwell innings saw a flurry of boundaries as he scored a quickfire 30, before Smith and Watson set about their business. A busy innings from captain Smith, that included a shot from off the wicket, saw him hit 61 off 43 balls making a mockery of the number one test batsman's lowly Twenty20 ranking. Watson supported Smith admirably, as he continued with 44 from 21 balls, including three sixes, as Australia set 193-4 off their twenty overs.
It was always going to be a difficult total for Pakistan to chase and they knew that early partnerships would be crucial. Sharjeel Khan set out on the offensive, but his opening partner Ahmed Shehzad only lasted six deliveries, as a mistimed shot fell straight to Nathan Coulter-Nile off the bowling of Josh Hazelwood. Sharjeel did not last much longer, as Faulkner took his first wicket, bowling the opener for 30.
Khalid Latif and Umar Akmal attempted a counter-attack, just as their opponents did, but without the same success. Akmal scored 32 before spinner Adam Zampa took his bails off at 85-3. Pakistan needed some runs from their captain and Shahid Afridi came out with his usual attacking style. Yet a brief flurry of big hits soon ended, as Zampa tempted him into being stumped out for just 14.
Pakistan still failed to give in as Shoaib Malik joined the tidy Khalid Latif. As the pair began to give their team hope, Australia called on the services of James Faulkner, who took the ball with glittering effect. First he dismissed Latif four runs short of his half century, before wrapping up Imad Wasim, Sarfraz Ahmed and Wahab Riaz for two between them. The Finisher had taken four wickets in the time Pakistan had scored 17 runs, as he worked his way to figures of 5-27.
Malik offered some hope with 40 for 20, but it was all in vain as Pakistan fell 21 runs short with their World Twenty20 Cup dreams ending at the same time. The victory for Australia leaves them still with a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals when they take on India in a decider on Sunday.