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September 11, 2012
Though Pakistan took the series, Australia's captain George Bailey believes a crushing victory for his side in the final match has provided something far more important heading into the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka - strong momentum.
Having begun by being bowled out for just 89 in game one, Australia returned the favour against Pakistan in the third fixture, routing Mohammad Hafeez's team for a mere 74 after David Warner and Shane Watson had added 111 to set their side on the path to 168 for 7. Apart from a middle order fade following that stand, it was one of Australia's most complete T20 displays.
"We have worked really hard, particularly over the last week, so to get the reward of a victory and see that the things we are working on are actually coming to fruition, I think that's really important for us," Bailey said. "So we will take a lot out of it, a lot of confidence for sure. While the series was important, the continual improvement throughout the series was probably more important."
Following his own side's poor start to the series, and the ignominy of briefly dropping beneath Ireland on the ICC's T20 rankings, Bailey said Australia's progress was proof that Pakistan could also recover quickly from a heavy defeat. However Bailey was also sure that the path to victory at the World T20 would require a team to close the gap between their best and worst.
"We got bowled out for 10 more runs the other night, and you can bounce back from it. It's a wake up call," Bailey said. "I think Pakistan are an unbelievable side, and at their best they can play some great cricket and at our best we can play some great cricket. I think T20 is that sort of game. At everyone's best you can beat anyone, but they key is to not let your worst game drop too far from your best game."
Warner's stand with Watson confirmed the pair were moving into ominous form at the right time, after Watson missed the ODI series with injury and Warner struggled for a time to find the right gears on slow pitches against quality spin. Bailey said a rapid start from the openers had a powerful effect on the confidence of rest of the team.
"They always open for us and we know they're absolutely dynamite when they come off, so the pleasing thing from my point of view was their intent and their positiveness," Bailey said. "I know for the batters waiting in the shed, when we're seeing Shane Watson and David Warner bat like that as a pair, that's awesome for us, we feel like we're dominating the game.
"It makes our jobs a lot easier. You talk about energy and momentum in the field with your bowlers, and when you see two of your batters setting the game up like that, it gives you that feeling as a group."
To follow up the opening stand, Bailey promoted Glenn Maxwell, who was chosen ahead of David Hussey. The options at Bailey's disposal are considerable, leaving him and the coach Mickey Arthur to think further about their best combinations on the trip to Colombo.
"We feel Maxy gives us a bit of X-factor, and when you do have a start like that he's someone who can come in and keep the momentum going in your direction, a gun in the field and some handy overs tonight and a wicket," Bailey said. "That sort of package is great, and Dave Hussey provides a similar role.
"So it's a tough one, and we're going to have four guys left out each game who can probably feel pretty hard done by. I did like our balance tonight, and it is going to come down to a bit of situation, a bit of conditions, opposition, all those things when we weigh up exactly what that XI's going to be."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala