Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Australia 177 for 5 (Warner 49, Wade 41*, Stoinis 40*, Shadab 4-26) beat Pakistan 176 for 4 (Rizwan 67, Zaman 55*, Starc 2-38) by five wickets
Second night in a row, second tournament favourites - Pakistan this time - paid the price for conservative batting in the first innings and were consumed by the curse of the defence. They looked in much more control than England did in Abu Dhabi, with Australia needing 62 off the last five with just five wickets in hand. They had two batters, who had barely batted in the tournament, but Matthew Wade and Marcus Stoinis got the better of possibly the best attack of the tournament with clean hitting.
It will be tempting to paint Hasan Ali, whose 18th over went for 15 and who dropped Wade in the 19th before he unfurled a hat-trick of sixes, as the villain, but the match was lost when Pakistan scored just 71 in the first 10 overs on arguably the best batting track Dubai has rolled out all tournament.
They somehow got to 176 thanks to Fakhar Zaman's 32-ball 55. Shaheen Afridi and Shadab Khan then kept Pakistan's noses ahead - Shadab's 4 for 26 are the best figures in a T20 World Cup semi-final - but Stoinis and Wade had the final say.
Babar, Rizwan get stuck
Mohammad Rizwan was in the hospital till late Wednesday night, getting treated for flu-like illness. He cleared the fitness test on match day, and there was no way Pakistan were splitting a successful opening partnership. Asked to bat first, the questions for them was: do you go for a par score and ask your bowling to bail you out, or do you try to provide them some cushion?
Rizwan attacked almost everything. His approach was clear the moment they saw what a belter the pitch was. Babar Azam, though, failed to help his partner out. Together they let Australia take out their fifth bowler's quota for just 31 runs within the first 10 overs. Glenn Maxwell bowled an over to two right-hand batters with no boundary attempts. When Babar finally slogged Adam Zampa to be caught at long-on, Pakistan were 71 for 1, and had once again left themselves needing 120 off the last 10. At what is considered the best time to bat in T20s, Babar scored at 114.7 per 100 balls.
No-balls help Pakistan out
Backloading their best bowlers, Australia managed to put Rizwan and Zaman under immense pressure. Mitchell Starc conceded just three off the 13th. Zampa gave five in the 16th. Rizwan and Fakhar kept trying to hit, but nothing came off. Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, though, ended up bowling two high full tosses which got deposited - with one of the free hits going for a six too. This was just the momentum Pakistan needed, reaching 158 for 2 in 18 overs.
Cummins sucks momentum out
Cummins, though, bowled a superb 19th over, with slower ones into the pitch, conceding just three runs and also taking out Asif Ali. The template was set for Starc in the 20th over, which gave him Shoaib Malik's wicket and also just a single to Zaman. However, Starc went back to attempting yorkers in the end and conceded two sixes.
Boom boom Afridi
First ball to a right-hand batter, and Afridi ripped off the front pad of Aaron Finch. It was plumb. Second ball to a right-hand batter, Mitch Marsh had his toe taken off, only to survive an lbw on an umpire's call. Australia 1 for 1 in 1.
Warner sets up the chase
Given the kind of finish, it is easy to forget the man who set the chase up. David Warner was in sublime touch, hitting three sixes in his 30-ball 49, one of them an incredibly powerful hit off a ball almost rolling along the ground. He looked nothing like a batter who had just been left out by his IPL side, and Pakistan needed to get him out if they were hoping to compete.
Shadab keeps Pakistan in
Shadab actually did nothing extraordinary. He bowled like he usually does. Good length, high pace, slight variations. Nor did the pitch do much for him. It is just that the batters kept attacking him, and they kept mis-hitting. Except for Warner, who walked when he thought he had nicked a slider that he actually hadn't, Shadab had little agency over his other three wickets. Marsh and Steven Smith slogged him to deep catching fielders, and Maxwell switch-hit for the same result. By the time Shadab was done, Australia needed 74 off the last seven overs.
The Stoinis-Wade finale
Australia might have lost four extra wickets than Pakistan at this stage because of the risks they took, but they had 12 extra runs. Those 12 extra runs proved to be the difference in the end as Stoinis and Wade didn't panic and finished the game off with one full over to spare, roughly worth 12 runs.
It wasn't Hasan's night, though. With 62 required in five overs, he bowled a no-ball in the 16th over to give away 12. Then he went for 15 in the 18th, which can happen to any bowler when batters are swinging for the hills. In the 19th, 20 required off 10, Hasan over-ran a catch in the deep, possibly the first big error from Pakistan in the field. What should have been 20 off nine with one bowler in was now 18 off nine. Wade then unleashed his pace hitting, pouncing on the small errors Afridi made in length. Two of the sixes were ramps, using Afridi's high pace to his advantage. Rauf ended up not bowling 25% of his quota because Hasan was given the 18th. That was not the first mistake Babar made on the night.
Shaheen Shah Afridi
Pakistan vs Australia
ICC Men's T20 World Cup