"Muscled" is a term that might be applied quite liberally to Australia's approach to T20 batting. They huff and puff and heave and swing at the ball as if they mean to rip the leather clean off it. Slightly built and a shade under six feet tall, Fakhar Zaman doesn't have the hardware to follow the same method. Pakistan's free-wheeling opener's game instead marries hand and eye and has made him the leading run-scorer in T20I cricket this year, with 516 runs in 13 innings capped by a career-best 91 when it really mattered against Australia in the tri-series final.
"I think nowadays he's in the best form of his life," reckoned Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed. "The way he's batted throughout the series has been good for us and good for his career. If he keeps playing like this, he's only going up and up."
It's not just how Fakhar's been scoring his runs, but also when. His century in the Champions Trophy final last year is an obvious case in point for big match temperament, and his innings in the tri-series final will only enhance that reputation.
"Yes, he's definitely [a big-match player]," said Sarfraz. "He performs in big games, consistently. Like the Champions Trophy, in the final, he got that hundred. In New Zealand, he scored a fifty and then a 40-odd (in successive T20Is, to help Pakistan come from 1-0 down to win the three-match series). He's a big-game player and he's getting better day by day."
His innings against Australia was all the more remarkable considering the early strife Pakistan were in. Flummoxed by Glenn Maxwell in the first over, they were 2 for 2 needing almost 10 an over pretty much as soon as their innings began. That's a position most other teams would be unable to rise from, but an hour later Pakistan's fans at the ground (and a few hundred turned up to support them) were singing "Jeetega bhai jeetega, Pakistan jeetega" and "Pakistan Zindabad" as their team improbably, inexplicably romped home. Pakistan can drop Aaron Finch first ball, concede 10 an over for the first 10 overs and then surge back into the game with eight wickets in the next 10. They can be 2 for 2, and then complete a record run chase with five balls to spare. It's become an obvious cliche, but Pakistan remain an absorbingly mercurial team.
"We know they're an emotional team, and they're a highly skilled team," Australia captain Finch said. "When they're on, they're incredibly good. We let them back into the game with bat and ball today. We had a chance to get up around that 200 mark and almost put the game to bed after that start with the ball. To chase 10 or 11 an over for 18 or 19 overs is incredibly hard. So if we'd had a few more runs, if we'd squeezed a little more with the ball early on and made them take risks. They didn't have to take too many risks to get boundaries early on."
Fakhar's batting wasn't entirely risk free, but his aggressive strokes came in a calculated manner. In that regard, he's not entirely dissimilar to his current batting coach Grant Flower, who came close to mastering the delicate risk/reward balance with his own batting, particularly towards the end of his career. Flower and Fakhar have certainly spent enough time together in the nets. Flower has been Pakistan's batting coach for four years now, which is enough time for the famously committed former Zimbabwe batsman to have sent down tens of thousands of throwdowns.
"He works really hard with the boys," Sarfraz said of Flower. "He's worked very hard for the last four years. He's always in the nets." Whatever he's doing, it's working for Fakhar, who has also looked to learn from the old heads around him in the playing XI.
"In the start in T20 cricket I was hitting every ball in my striking zone, and after playing eight to 10 games I sat with some senior players like Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed, and spoke about my gameplans with them," Fakhar had said after Pakistan's previous match. "I realised that I could play proper cricket shots and be successful, and that's what I've been doing recently."
Fakhar has certainly made an impression on the Australians. Finch called him "a thorn in our side" earlier this week, today adding: "We've all seen the form that Fakhar has been in. We saw with Shoaib Malik there, towards the end, if you have a batter who's in, they can control the game, they control the strike."
Capped by Fakhar's career-best 91 and Malik's masterclass, Pakistan had veered between ordinary to extraordinary all morning. Shadab Khan dropped a sitter at point and then pulled off a one-handed blinder at mid-off. Hasan Ali's massive, ballooning no-ball didn't even bounce before it landed in Sarfraz' gloves, leaving Pakistan's captain - finally - lost for words. Two balls later, Hasan shattered Ashton Agar's stumps, brilliance and farce bookending the over.
Whether it's letting the opposition sprint to 95 for 0, or slipping to 2 for 2 at the start of a record chase, Pakistan are the sort of team who get themselves into these situations. But they're also the sort of team that can get themselves out of them. "You can't take anything for granted against the number one team in the world," said Finch. "Or any international team." But especially if that team is Pakistan.