Australia 266 for 6 (Finch 90, Maxwell 71) beat Pakistan 186 (Imam 46, Zampa, 4-43, Cummins 3-24) by 80 runs
Shoaib Malik said on Sunday, and again at the toss here today, that Pakistan were using this series to test their bench strength. Well, it appears they haven't got much.
It was a grey day in Abu Dhabi, sparsely attended by the locals who'd had their fill with the recently concluded PSL. And that was just as well, because the cricket that transpired won't have brought much joy. It was another commanding performance from Australia, who, having won just four ODIs in two years, have suddenly come up trumps in six on the bounce. They sealed their second consecutive series win in a fortnight with an 80-run win and will fancy a 5-0 scoreline.
Aaron Finch's 90 - he fell 10 short of becoming the first Australian to score three ODI hundreds on the trot - and a 55-ball 71 from Glenn Maxwell, who was given a life on 27, took Australia to 266. Pakistan, who lost their first three wickets for 19 runs, were never really in the game from that point onwards; partnerships between Imam-ul-Haq and Shoaib Malik, and then Umar Akmal and Imad Wasim, merely delaying the inevitable. With five overs to spare, they had folded for 186 in what the most uncompetitive series defeat for Mickey Arthur's men since New Zealand whitewashed them fourteen months ago.
The recalled pair of Pat Cummins and Jason Behrendorff found early swing that kept Imam and Shan Masood on their toes. Masood has had a frustrating series so far, struggling to replicate the form that saw him impress so highly in the Test series in South Africa. He was the first to fall, edging Cummins to second slip, where Peter Handscomb completed a superb catch. Haris Sohail, who came in at No. 3 was deceived by the bounce, edging to first slip to leave Pakistan tottering as rain interrupted play for the second time in the day.
While the rain stopped soon after, the rot didn't. Mohammad Rizwan was undone by a pearler from a brilliant Cummins who maintained the probing off stump line, shaving the outside edge on the way to the keeper. It brought Imam and Shoaib Malik together for a consolidation that never looked like it could move to the next level. The spin bowlers had come in and showed no signs of letting up on the intensity or quality of their quick counterparts. It didn't even take one of the specialists to break the partnership. Maxwell drifted one in to Imam, who played outside the line and found himself trapped in front of middle and leg.
With Pakistan fielding a long tail in the absence of Faheem Ashraf, Umar and Imad came together with the hosts still needing 171 for victory. They tried to take the attack to Australia, bringing up a boundary just about every over while attempting to play through the line on a slowing surface, but with an ever-increasing run rate and a vast number of runs still to get, it was a hopeless cause. Some risk had to be taken, and when a visibly tiring Umar slogged Behrendorff right down deep square-leg's throat with 118 still to get, that was the end. Adam Zampa was good enough to rip through the lower order, the final four wickets falling in just 16 balls.
For a while in the first innings, Australia did have it all their own way. Off just the sixth ball of the innings, Usman Shinwari knocked back the off stump of his namesake. Usman Khawaja needed just two runs to surpass Virat Kohli as the highest ODI runscorer this year but a fast, inswinging yorker meant he will have to wait till Dubai to achieve that landmark. Shinwari was Pakistan's most impressive bowler overall, going at just two per over in his first spell, and the only bowler who looked in control of proceedings towards the end when Maxwell had teed off. Not long after, the other new inductee into Pakistan's bowling line-up, Junaid Khan, needed just three balls to make his mark when Shaun Marsh got a think inside edge to square leg.
That put Australia into rebuilding mode straightaway. Finch was content to nudge and nurdle his way for most of the innings, departing from that policy only when Yasir Shah pitched the ball up to deposit him into the stands behind the sightscreen. Peter Handscomb was brighter in his approach, beginning by punishing a wayward Mohammad Hasnain with four boundaries in an over. It was another tough day for the 18-year old; he had conceded 16 in that over, and it wouldn't be his most expensive of the innings. Overall, Malik only saw fit to trust him with half his allotted quota, in which he conceded 50 runs, and still awaits his first international wicket.
Progress was slow and when Marcus Stoinis was castled by Imad, Pakistan would have sniffed a chance to get the lower order in. But Finch and Maxwell held firm, even if it came at the expense of the run rate, and a revision of the total they would aim for. Yasir looked more comfortable, and finished off his spell by snaring Finch in his final over.
It wasn't until the end of the 44th over that Australia crossed 200, but a costly drop by Imam at point that gave Maxwell a reprieve on 27 meant the next four overs would be chaotic for Pakistan. As their fielding standards dipped and Maxwell finally hit his straps, Pakistan conceded 47 off the following 24 balls. It was a crucial passage of play that allowed Australia to seize the momentum - they would never let it go after that.