Seldom has the fickleness of Twenty20 been more evident. Pakistan claimed the series against Australia, but did so in circumstances as far removed from the hiding dealt out in the first match as could be imagined. Mohammad Hafeez's team celebrated their victory in the minutes after midnight in Dubai, yet George Bailey's Australians could also take solace from a much-improved display.
Two days after being routed for 89 on the way to a seven-wicket hiding, Australia scrapped to an enthralling tie. They owed much to the captain George Bailey, who on his 30th birthday compiled the most critical and substantial innings of his T20 career to date, proving his worth as a batsman as well as a captain in the process.
But it would be Pakistan's players who were to be jubilant after the extra deliveries were completed. Umar Gul conceded only one boundary in his Super Over while claiming David Warner's wicket, and the 11 runs Pat Cummins had to defend were to prove too few, the teenager delivering a motley collection of short balls that betrayed the draining effect of the contest and offered meat and drink to Umar Akmal and Abdul Razzaq. It was unfair that Cummins be left the loser, for it was he who struck a mighty six to tie the match up.
Warner and Shane Watson had earlier given Australia a suitably quick start before the top order experienced their now familiar difficulties with the high-class spin bowling of Saeed Ajmal. After three overs he had the figures of 2-10, but Ajmal's last ball was to be crashed over the boundary by Bailey to ease the pressure on Australia's chase. Ten were required off the final over, bowled by Razzaq, and Pakistan were expectant when Bailey fell. Cummins conjured a stunning six from the penultimate ball to level the scores, before miscuing the final delivery for a simple catch to force the use of the Super Over.
Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed provided the spine of Pakistan's innings with a stand of 76, broken only by a superlative catch by Dan Christian, before Umar and Kamran Akmal hit out freely at the finish in a union of 46. Mitchell Starc bowled with swing, speed and economy on his T20I debut to follow up some fine 50-over efforts in Sharjah, but Brad Hogg endured a more difficult outing and was attacked with some relish by Pakistan's batsmen.
Warner has struggled for batting momentum at times on this trip, but he made a swift start to the chase, punching Hafeez's first ball for six and prospering against the pacemen in the company of Shane Watson. However he was to prove no closer to extricating himself from Ajmal's web, bowled in the off spinner's first over having tried unsuccessfully to switch-hit his first ball.
The wicket brought an immediate halt to Australia's momentum, the rate slipping from almost 10 to less than seven in a handful of balls. Michael Hussey and Watson rallied briefly, before Ajmal's reintroduction had the vice-captain sweeping fatally. When Cameron White was thrown out from backward point the next over, Pakistan sensed a series win.
However Bailey, on his birthday, summoned some telling blows off both spinners and pacemen, overcoming a nervy start to make his most meaningful batting contribution since he was named Australia's T20 captain at the start of the year. Michael and David Hussey both perished, but Bailey kept the equation within sight when he pulled Ajmal's final delivery for a towering six.
Bailey brought the equation down to 12 to win from nine balls with consecutive boundaries off Gul, before Matthew Wade was run out to keep Pakistan breathing. Their pulse strengthened with Bailey's exit, but Cummins forced the contest into extra balls.
Having lost the toss, Australia's opening bowlers found some new ball movement. Hafeez snicked and stroked 12 from the first over of the match, while also surviving a desperately tight LBW appeal to a sharp in-swinger. Starc showed the swing and speed that had made him man of the ODI series, swerving one through Imran Nazir second ball.
Hafeez and Jamshed then combined for a noteworthy partnership, which alternated between the considered and the cantankerous in terms of strokeplay. Jamshed was the beneficiary of an uncharacteristic dropped catch by Michael Hussey from the bowling of his brother David, and capitalised by taking to Hogg in his first overseas international since 2007.
Jamshed's stay was ended by a stupendous diving snare from Dan Christian, sprinting with the flight of the ball and sticking out a despairing hand, then finding with great delight after he landed that the ball had stuck. Watson turfed a less difficult chance from Hafeez off Starc, though he atoned for the error by having Pakistan's captain caught in the deep the following over.
The run-rate had hovered around seven, and helped by a steady diet of full tosses the brothers Akmal took it past 7.5 in the closing overs. Umar would be called on for an encore, as Pakistan enjoyed the right side of the nearest run thing many of them will have seen.