Australia v Pakistan, Twenty20, Melbourne

Tait leads Australia's great escape

The Report by Brydon Coverdale at the MCG

February 5, 2010

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Australia 127 (Hussey 40*, Gul 3-20) beat Pakistan 9 for 125 (K Akmal 64, Tait 3-13) by 2 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Umar Gul led Pakistan with 3 for 20, Australia v Pakistan, only Twenty20 international, MCG, 5 February, 2010
Umar Gul took three wickets but it turned into Australia's night © Getty Images

Shaun Tait proved he can still be a force at international level as he helped Australia to a tense two-run win that completed a clean-sweep across all three formats against Pakistan this summer. Tait bowled the fastest ball ever recorded in Australia and grabbed 3 for 13 including the key wicket of Kamran Akmal, who had threatened to end Australia's streak with his highest Twenty20 score.

Pakistan's trip has been notable for terrible fielding and the inability to capitalise whenever they got on top of Australia. This time their fielding was sharper than it had been at any stage over the past couple of months but their failure to keep Australia down remained a major issue. Despite dismissing Australia for 127 and being on track at 4 for 98 in the 15th over, they found a way to lose.

The problems began when Kamran chipped to mid-on for 64 from 33 balls to hand Tait his third wicket. Steven Smith then delivered two important breakthroughs on debut when he had Fawad Alam caught at slip and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan stumped, and the wickets kept tumbling. In the end, Pakistan needed 10 from the final Shane Watson over. Umar Akmal was on strike, having been the key after the loss of his brother, but when he holed out from the first ball the result was all but sealed.

It was a shame that Kamran's team-mates couldn't reward him after he led an impressive fightback when the visitors had stumbled to 2 for 10. Kamran was a one-man resistance movement and raced to a 25-ball half-century, the quickest ever by a Pakistan batsman in a Twenty20 international.

His fifty came up with a typically muscular pull for six off Dirk Nannes and at the time Pakistan were 4 for 81 and no other batsman in their line-up had reached double figures. It was an incredible turnaround for a man who was dropped from both the Test and ODI sides during the tour and had a best international score of 34 in any format on the trip.

In a match where Tait broke the 160kph barrier and his new-ball partner Nannes was fast and accurate, the first-change Mitchell Johnson was a welcome relief and Kamran helped blast 20 off Johnson's first over. Despite the support of his brother Umar (21), there wasn't enough of a spread in the runs from the rest of the Pakistanis.

The trouble began with the quick loss of both the openers. Nannes' first over was a maiden that included the run-out of Imran Nazir as the pressure built, and Tait didn't drop below 150kph in his opening spell. He hit 160.7kph, which was the fastest ball recorded in Australia, and from a 152kph offering had Imran Farhat caught at slip for 8.

That undid much of the good work from Pakistan in the field after they dismissed Australia with eight balls to spare, with David Hussey holding things together during an unbeaten 40. Only twice in a 20-over match had Australia scored less than their 127 and it was thanks to great bowling from Umar Gul and a sharp fielding effort from his team-mates. Three run-outs hurt Australia badly, including two that resulted in flat, accurate throws from the outfield from Umar Akmal.

But the most impressive was Fawad's effort to get rid of Cameron White for 4. A Gul short ball lobbed off White's body to point where Fawad took the catch, but while the umpire was turning down the appeal, White wandered out of his crease and was brilliantly snared by a smart throw.

It was the second good thing that Fawad did in the field after he held a sharp chance at point to send Michael Clarke on his way for 32 from 26 balls. Clarke's innings was useful but didn't exactly disprove the doubters who believe he is unsuited to Twenty20 cricket.

He began in promising enough fashion with a cracking cut for four from his first delivery but there was only one more boundary and most of his runs came from scrambled ones and twos. Neither of Australia's debutants had innings to remember - Travis Birt was out second ball when he missed a paddle sweep and was bowled, and Smith was bowled by Rana's slower delivery for 8.

The Twenty20 specialist David Warner made a handy 24 but his dismissal sparked a mini-collapse of 5 for 27. The last of those wickets was Brad Haddin, stumped down the leg side. It was one of several good things Kamran did for the match. He simply didn't have enough support with the bat.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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