Akmal ton ensures consolation win
A scintillating century from Kamran Akmal helped guide Pakistan to book-ending victories in the five-match ODI series against Australia. Akmal's knock off 115 balls, his fifth ODI century, meant he top scored in both of Pakistan's successful run-chases this series and begged the question as to why he had not batted in the top four throughout.
Akmal combined superbly with Misbah-ul-Haq to reel in Australia's total, the highest run-chase of this tough series, after being thrust together with Pakistan in trouble at 56 for 3. Their unbroken stand of 198 was an ODI record for the fourth wicket against Australia.
Misbah was the ideal foil for Akmal, who was ignited by Misbah's energetic running, and the pair complimented each other perfectly to frustrate the Australian bowlers. While Akmal pounced on any width from either the fast bowlers or spinners, flaying the majority of his 13 boundaries through the off side, Misbah walked across his crease frequently, working the bowlers into the vast expanses on the on-side. Their running between the wickets was outstanding but it was the constant flow of boundaries that kept the scoring rate high.
Pakistan began their pursuit horrendously with another terrible mix-up between Ahmed Shehzad and Salman Butt, resulting in Butt's run-out in the first over without facing a ball. The problems compounded when Younis Khan, after his most fluent innings of the series, holed out to deep long-on and Shehzad made a horrible error in judgement to gift Nathan Hauritz two wickets and leave Pakistan struggling at 56 for 3.
But the promotion of Akmal proved a master-stroke from Younis while the experience of Misbah was invaluable.
Australia had one chance to break the pair. Michael Clarke could have ended a cramping Akmal's day on 97 as he strained for a single. The usually deadly Clarke missed from backward point and from there it was a fait accompli with Akmal cutting loose after Pakistan took the batting Powerplay in the 46th over.
It was a disappointing result for the Australians after they produced their best batting display of the series on the back of Shane Watson's second one-day international century
Watson's unbeaten 146-ball stay was a superb mixture of power and patience as Australia controlled the opening half of the dead rubber and pushed for a 4-1 result.
The Queenslander continued a rich vein of form following his 85 not out on Friday, but today he was far more fluent. He punished the bad balls that were presented. He was particularly vicious on anything fractionally short - the highlights being two massive straight sixes complimenting six boundaries. But a real feature was his composure against the spinners that have so frustrated him throughout this series.
Watson was the anchor to three partnerships of more than 50 - the highest was an unconquered 84 with Callum Ferguson. Ferguson, starved for opportunities through most of this series, overcame a nervous start to provide sound support for Watson finishing with 41 not out. Neither player panicked despite an unproductive batting Powerplay. However they did have a near-calamitous mix-up, with Ferguson fortunate to escape thanks to an awkward throw that was not collected by Saeed Ajmal. But for the most part the running was sound whilst Ferguson's placement and timing was superb.
Earlier, Watson and Brad Haddin (36) produced the brightest opening stand of the campaign by racing to 51 in just eight overs with some glorious strokeplay on a very good batting surface.
After conceding 71 from the first ten overs, Younis Khan applied the brakes in the form of Ajmal and Shahid Afridi. The spinners operated through the bowling Powerplay, with Ajmal claiming Marcus North with a crafty piece of work from around the wicket. He delivered a doosra first before flighting an offbreak that lured a tentative North down the track and Akmal completed the simple stumping.
Ajmal and Afridi were the pick of the bowlers but could not wreak the havoc they did in the first match in Dubai.
Clarke and Watson picked up where they left off last Friday combining for 57, before Umar Gul found some reverse-swing in an impressive second spell to find Clarke's prized outside edge.
Australia took their batting Powerplay in the 36th over but could not capitalize as Younis again held his nerve turning to his two most experienced spinners in Afridi and Shoaib Malik.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer from Western Australia