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

The familiar thrill of Pakistan's win-conjuring trick

Pakistan staged two impressive comebacks in the match to trounce Australia, reviving an old act of creating a win from a difficult situation

Play 01:19
Umar Akmal rates his 94 as the best knock of his career

Like the World Twenty20 2012, Pakistan came up against Australia on Sunday right after a meek display against India. Once again, they played like the Pakistan side fans expect, showing that it was the pressure of an India game that brought out all the diffidence two nights ago. The intensity was not close to the levels of the Premadasa in October 2012, but the similarities were there.

That evening, Pakistan had to win, and win big, to make the semi-finals ahead of India. This evening, a loss would not have knocked them out of the tournament, but would have still left them teetering on the brink. Both times, Pakistan batted first. In 2012, they made 149 and defended it with such ferocity Australia were out of it long before their chase meandered to a feeble end. In 2014, Umar Akmal sent them rocketing to 191. Then Australia lost two wickets in the first over. This is where the similarities would end.

Pakistan are usually all over the chasing side after such a batting effort and a successful start with the ball. Until Glenn Maxwell happened. He swept six after six, each blow hacking away at Pakistan's spirit. Not even Saeed Ajmal and his doosra were spared. Bilawal Bhatti went for 30 in one over. The asking rate had come down to 7.5. When anything and everything your bowlers come up with is swatted for six, it is an understatement to say that it is demoralising. And Pakistan did what probably any side would have done in the face of such an assault, for a while at least. They were rattled. They dropped catches.

Akmal had already brought them back once in the match, after a rather weak start. Are two comebacks possible in a T20 match? Maybe they are, when Pakistan are making the comebacks. The asking rate for Australia was still extremely manageable, around eight, when Maxwell finally hit one that failed to clear Ahmed Shehzad in the deep.

Suddenly, it was as if the elusive combination of a safe had been cracked. Suddenly, bowlers who had cost so many runs until now found suffocating lines and lengths. Suddenly, fielders who had been fumbling and putting down straightforward chances seemed to spring up wherever the ball went and pounced on it. A gigantic wall had sprung up out of thin air to block Australia's smooth progress. All Australia's batsmen were managing against it were scores of 4, 2, 8, 0, 3 and 3.

When you come from a generation that grew up watching Pakistan conjure wins out of sheer will, you expect that to happen even now. Everything has changed - times, personnel, the game itself. That expectation, though, refuses to go away. And although the frequency may have dipped, Pakistan are still capable of conjuring such victories, as they showed tonight.

Amid such vintage Pakistani thrill at the end, what Akmal achieved at the start should not be overlooked. He caught Pakistan by the scruff and dragged them out of the abyss they had fallen into against the Indians, and one they threatened to slip further down into at 25 for 2. Akmal had all the intent and aggression that had gone absent against India.

It is tempting to the see the patterns for Pakistan in this match - from Akmal's dominance with the bat to Babar's controlled opening with the ball to the commanding closing by the team. There is the small matter of Maxwell's massive scare in the middle. To the faithful, Pakistan were always going to find a way around him. To those who aren't, Australia gave it away under pressure. Either way, there is no denying the swiftness, the finality and the thrill of that wall Pakistan constructed.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Saud on March 28, 2014, 20:44 GMT

    @zarasochozarasamjho - Fawad Alam and Anwar Ali - maybe you should think a little also ... Fawad is a good test player and can play in one days but currently has no T20 skills m and Anwar Ali is good for club level only next you will want M. Sami in team... grow up .. both have no control. having said that Shoaib malik has no place in any side now .. Bhatti can be groomed but I think better options are avaialble.

  • Nasser on March 26, 2014, 17:56 GMT

    As a Pakistan supporter, I would nearly always (> 95%) opt for Pakistan batting first. This is because of their weak batting and very strong bowling. If batting second, Pakistan would be under even greater pressure chasing; but bowling second Pakistan always stands a chance. Why Australia allowed Pakistan to bat first is really intriguing, but lucky for Pakistan. Australia's fielding was quite poor uncharacteristically; and that cost them the match more than anything else. Pakistan, for its own part, selects players based on nepotism and provincialism thus choosing Shoaib Malik and Bilawal Bhutta instead of the much superior Fawad Alam and Anwar Ali. Hats off to the Akmal brothers for their batting and Babar, Ajmal, Afridi, & Gul for their splendid bowling that Pakistan won. Unbelieveably, Ajmal: 18th over - 1 run & 1 wicket; Gul: 19th over - 7 runs & 1 wicket. The match was virtually won By Pakistan by the end of the 19th over.

  • Richard on March 26, 2014, 5:13 GMT

    I think the article missed a number of salient points. It was a battle to get in on that wicket. Once in, one could score heavily. The successful batsmen came in at a time where quick wickets were lost or lost around them and they had time to get their head down. Getting in, increased in difficulty as the game went on. Even the pace bowlers were more difficult to get away in the second innings.

    Winning the toss and bowling was a mistake. They were familiar conditions for Pakistan, not us. The way Hogg carried on after dropping Akmal was ridiculous behaviour from a senior player. He should never have bowled the next over in that highly fragile state of mind. The tactic of bowling first may have worked on Pakistan's well documented mental frailties, but in actuality our own frailties were fully exposed. All things considered, Pakistan deserved their win. Well played by a decent cricket team vs a team of multi-millionaire prima-donnas.

  • Dummy4 on March 25, 2014, 7:57 GMT

    where are stats for this game?getting 500wkts and scoring 10k runs i thought t was milestone achived by afridi wanted to read more about it.but after 2 days no stats for this match.

  • Android on March 24, 2014, 22:47 GMT

    it was awesome victory from team pakistan .. nd I hope pak will continue the things same they did against aussies it would be intersting if pak nd india will go for finals... best of luck pakistan

  • Jawwad on March 24, 2014, 20:38 GMT

    @Zahidsaltin - i think what's been happening is bowling coach M. Akram is tying to change bowlers length, line, variations and etc and in process falling to realize Pakistan has always enjoyed success due to their bowler's raw ability and sheer talent rather than their knack to learn and grow into a complete bowler. Those who did do that became legends like Fazal, Imran, Akram, Waqar. I did not see a single slow ball when Maxwell was going berserk. All that needed slow ball or two to get him mistime a hit but none came.

  • Arshad on March 24, 2014, 19:45 GMT

    Abhishek: one of the very balanced article where you used every word so appropriately that I simply rate this piece of writing well above Pakistan performance against Australia! The beauty about your writing is that you don't mix emotions with facts.... a rarity among cricinfo writers!!

  • Dummy4 on March 24, 2014, 16:01 GMT

    absolutely loved the article. brief and telling.

  • Khuram on March 24, 2014, 15:26 GMT

    Woow! what a match that was. Match was full of entertainment. This was contest of skill and nerves as well. I must say Pakistan always best in T20 comparing to any team in the world. Pakistan are only team that qualify for semi-finals each edition of T20 WC. This edition they will surely qualify for the semi-final. Key success factors for Pakistan will be AFRIDI, AJMAL, U. AKMAL.

  • Charles on March 24, 2014, 15:14 GMT

    Amazing writing skills, Mr Purohit!!!

  • No featured comments at the moment.