Australia v Pakistan, World T20, Group 2, Mirpur March 23, 2014

Pakistan hold on in high-voltage game


Pakistan 191 for 5 (Umar Akmal 94) beat Australia 175 (Maxwell 74, Finch 65) by 16 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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If ever proof was needed that Pakistan are world cricket's most mercurial side, take this match as exhibit A. Bilawal Bhatti's first over cost 30 runs, Pakistan dropped two catches in three balls, they conceded an 18-ball half-century to Glenn Maxwell and in their own innings stumbled to 25 for 2 in their fifth over. Oh, and they won. Comfortably, in the end. So relaxed was Mohammad Hafeez by the end that he trusted Bhatti with the final over, with Australia needing 23. They managed six.

This really was a split personality of a game. The fielding from both sides was poor, as was some of the bowling. But the striking from Umar Akmal and Maxwell was breathtaking, and a couple of wonderful overs from two of Pakistan's spinners, Zulfiqar Babar and Saeed Ajmal, meant more than Bhatti's dirty 30-run over. Perhaps the most important feature of the match was the lopsided nature of Australia's scorecard; nobody but Maxwell and Aaron Finch reached double figures.

And yet while they were at the crease together, Australia rocketed into favouritism. Chasing 192, they had come together at 8 for 2 at the end of the first over, after Babar's quicker ball rattled David Warner's stumps and his turner caught the edge of Shane Watson's bat on the way through to Kamran Akmal. But from there, Maxwell and Finch lifted Australia to 126 for 2 in the 12th over, a position from which they could have and should have won.

Had Maxwell stayed there they would have. As he struck six after six with conventional strokeplay, it was hard to work out why he had tried to reverse-sweep Hafeez from the first ball of his innings. Nerves, perhaps. But when he stood still and played the ball on its merits, he was almost impossible to stop. He clubbed Hafeez over midwicket and square leg for two sixes in an over and struck another as Shahid Afridi leaked 15 in his first over.

Afridi seemed Scrooge-like compared to Bhatti, who was thumped for two consecutive sixes that brought Maxwell his half-century, the equal fastest in a T20 international by an Australia player. The record was set by David Warner, who struck an 18-ball fifty against West Indies in 2009-10 at the SCG, where the Arizona Diamondbacks and the LA Dodgers are playing Major League Baseball this week. Some of Maxwell's strikes belonged there.

He was put down on 70 by Ajmal in the deep - two balls earlier Kamran had failed to glove Finch's edge behind off Ajmal's doosra - but on 74 Maxwell fell when he picked out deep midwicket off the bowling of Afridi. And magically, the runs dried up. The rest of the Australians struggled to force the pace against Pakistan's spin; George Bailey was bowled by Afridi for 4 off nine balls and after Brad Hodge was well caught in the deep by Ajmal off Umar Gul, Ajmal got rid of the other main danger, Finch.

Australia needed 31 off the final three overs when Ajmal was given his last over, and it was a brilliant one. Finch, settled but still a little scratchy, was bowled by an Ajmal straight ball for 65 off 54 balls, and the over brought one run and one wicket. And, more or less, one Pakistan victory. Because 30 off two overs was too much for Australia's lower order; Gul and Bhatti picked up wickets and there was a run out, and Australia were bowled out from the last ball for 175.

It meant that Umar Akmal's batting had not been in vain. That Pakistan reached 191 for 5 was a remarkable effort given that they were struggling at 25 for 2 in the fifth over. But the Akmal brothers combined to give Bailey a headache for the next three quarters of an hour.

They scored at 11.29 during their 96-run partnership and although Kamran has an excellent record against Australia it was Umar who really did the damage this time. Powerful through and over midwicket, especially during an 18-run over from part-time spinner Finch, who was twice dispatched dismissively over deep midwicket, Umar was also able to rocket the ball down the ground straight back past the bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile.

Kamran struck four fours during his run-a-ball 31 but the partnership ended when he tried to lift a cut over deep point off Coulter-Nile but was well taken by Warner running around on the boundary. Coulter-Nile picked up a second wicket when he yorked Sohaib Maqsood for 5, but Umar remained at the crease and seemed destined to become the first Pakistan batsman to reach a century in a Twenty20 international.

That was not to be. In the final over of the innings, on 94 from 53 balls, he tried to clear the long-on boundary off Mitchell Starc and was caught in the deep by Maxwell. A quick unbeaten 20 from Afridi helped Pakistan to 191 for 5, but the Australians were left wondering what could have been had they been a little less sloppy in the field.

Umar had been dropped on 22 when he lifted Coulter-Nile to deep square leg and Brad Hogg put down a catch that was coming to him at pace, but should have been taken comfortably. Afridi was also put down by Hodge at point and Kamran was grassed by Doug Bollinger at short fine leg, although the umpire called a no-ball against the bowler Shane Watson in any case.

Bollinger's first international for two and a half years had started more promisingly - he struck in the second over of the match when Ahmed Shehzad top-edged a pull and was caught by Bollinger himself. When Hafeez played on off Watson in the fifth over, Australia could dream of a small chase. In their dreams.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Scott on March 27, 2014, 19:02 GMT

    Sorry, Jagger, but in limited overs cricket S Watson is just about the first name on the team sheet. He should only EVER bat 1, 2 or 3. That's a weird sample selection, mate. As Homer J Simpson once said, "You can use statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that!" Explain to me how Watson isn't good enough when he averages 47 in his last 8 tests? He averages 38 from his last 4 ODIs and 2 of those innings were ducks! He averages 42 from his last 9 ODIs! He averages 32 @130SR from his last 14 T20Is. Looking at those stats, what are you complaining about?!

  • Richard on March 27, 2014, 13:01 GMT

    I thought it was clear, but just in case there remains any confusion - no I do not like Watson the cricketer with a pea heart at all - No, I have not missed a series in 30+ years I even flew from Shanghai to Hong Kong specially to watch Oz v SL on the Downunder bar's telly - No one more disappointing? Not with his talent there hasn't been - Never said drop him from limited overs cricket, only from tests, but in any form of cricket he should NOT be batting in the top 3. In fact, make it the top 5.

    Perhaps you should help me by explaining why he averages 14.37 across the most recent 2 Tests, 2 ODI's and 3 T20i's for his past 8 international innings for me (he got another start in the prior innings and failed once again to go on with it), I am very interested to see how you can reconcile that record rather than what happened 5 years ago. Before he chose IPL over his country.

  • Scott on March 27, 2014, 12:17 GMT

    @Jagger, obviously you missed when he was the player of the tournament in a previous edition of the T20WC and he single handedly won us every single game by destroying spinners and pacers alike. It's plain to see you don't like the bloke, and I agree that he's been disappointing as his talents appear wasted, though a lot of what you're stating is purely your opinion of Watson. I've seen him build beautiful innings, especially in 09 when we threw him to the lions after Hughes was dropped. Also, you've got that completely wrong as in ODI's early wickets are ALWAYS what teams are looking for. It's a little difficult to be bowling economically when you're in powerplay. Also, you can't replace Watson with a batsman, especially so in limited overs cricket. If he's the most disappointing player you've seen in a baggy green, I'm thinking you aren't old enough to have witnessed some of our sides back in the day when we were truly poor!

  • Richard on March 27, 2014, 11:45 GMT

    Yeah that wasn't the reason I was told and if it is as you explained I would be very, very surprised. I don't regard him as a middle order batsman either - 6, 7 or 8. Your stats are all based upon facing pace bowling at the top of the order. He won't get that in T20 on the Indian subcontinent anymore. Pakistan opened with 2 spinners and got him in the first over. Breathtakingly predictable. I just think he is more suited batting at the death vs pace. He could do a lot of damage with a clear head and a licence to throw the bat. He stuffs around too much when he bats higher. Both Maddinson and Lynn would be better. Watching him trying to build an innings is painful to watch. That pad is a target. Furthermore, opening the batting in one day cricket is the best place to build up an average. Most of the time they're not even trying to get you out but to stop you scoring. No, I stand by everything I said about Watson. He's the most disappointing player I've seen in a Baggy Green.

  • Muhammad Juniad on March 27, 2014, 3:40 GMT

    It is good thing that Umar Akmal is in great form and this thing will helpful for Pakistan in the next matches but Hafeez has to play a positive cricket!!Congrates and best of luck team PAKISTAN!

  • Andrew on March 27, 2014, 0:53 GMT

    @ScottStevo on (March 25, 2014, 9:01 GMT) - I agree, there is nothing to suggest (bar a few lusty innings in Tests this summer), that Watto is anything but a top order batsmen in the short forms. @Jagger on (March 25, 2014, 7:00 GMT) - the reality with Watto is that he got a run at the top of the order because Oz's middle order was way too strong (2009) for him to slot in. Watto has been a long time under achiever, but a large share of that is due to injuries disrupting his career, coupled with (IMO) an overeagerness to slot him straight back into the side before he has got his eye back in FC cricket. His ODI stats make him one of the best allrounders ever, & that was achieved by batting at the top of the order coupled with good economical medium pace. He has done nothing in short forms in the middle of the order.As an opener he averages near 45 - with a S/R of 90, he has barely batted 25 times below #3 out of 150 innings.

  • Richard on March 26, 2014, 2:52 GMT

    When Watson fails at 1, 2 or 3, the whole team is like a punctured tyre. Then what happens next is Maxwell thinks he can happily tonk away because he's done enough when he hasn't and it permeates through. I think Watson is a cancer in the team. George needs to grip him but he can't because he can least afford any bad blood against him. That's why he's useless too. Clarke gripped him and look what happened. Mickey Arthur lost his job and Clarke, not Watson, got hammered in the press. I see the senior blokes making faces and shaking their heads when Watson and Maxwell are dismissed. So much talent, so little heart.

    When he was younger everyone said give him time to bloom. Well, he bloomed for about 5 minutes and that was in the IPL.

  • Fahad on March 25, 2014, 9:20 GMT

    well done Pakistan i love t20 world cup

  • Scott on March 25, 2014, 9:01 GMT

    @Jagger, I respectfully disagree. If we were discussing test cricket, I'd find it difficult to refute those claims (although I still believe that we can still get good use of Watson in tests.) However, in limited overs cricket, Watson has been one of our best and in T20Is, undoubtedly our best batsman. In T20 Watson at 6 is a complete waste of time. Opening or 3 is exactly where he should be...

  • sameera on March 25, 2014, 8:16 GMT

    HOPE, Pakistan doesn't get carried away by the win.Same tradition Afridi& Akmal Bailing out Pak.Infact its a miracle win & these things always happen to Pak team.What is the lesson Pak will get out of this.Bowling coach is really a dumb Master.If things are not sorted out by the Pak benefeciaries it is just a matter of another Game.The Foremost thing for Pak Team is to get Overseas Specialist Batsmens.You can't heavily depend on Akmal & Afridi.Had pakistan been chasing 191against Australia in the same Match?Pak Team Should have Lot of Scripts.