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Analysis

Matthew Wade, the new finisher, finishes off Pakistan in grand style

How Thursday became Wade's night out in Dubai

Deivarayan Muthu
11-Nov-2021
Glenn Maxwell's reverse-sweep off Shadab Khan lands in the hands of Haris Rauf as Australia fall to 96 for 5 in the 13th over during their pursuit of 177. Enter Matthew Wade. His first ball is a wrong'un from Shadab, which he defends. Shadab ends his spell with 4-0-26-4 - the best-ever figures in a T20 World Cup semi-final.
On most other nights, it would've been a match-winning return. However, Thursday would be Wade's night out in Dubai.
When Rauf errs in length and overpitches in the 14th over, Wade pumps it flat and straight over the bowler's head. In the next over, though, Shaheen Shah Afridi digs the ball into the pitch to keep Wade honest. He is on eight off nine balls; Australia need 50 off 24 to make the T20 World Cup final.
With the dew becoming a bigger factor in Dubai, most teams back themselves to hunt it down, especially with five wickets in hand. But then again, Wade and Marcus Stoinis are the last recognised batting pair for Australia, and neither are recognised as bonafide finishers. Wade and Stoinis are new-ball bashers at the top in the BBL for Hobart Hurricanes and Melbourne Stars respectively.
Since the start of 2018, Wade has hit 1167 runs in 29 innings as an opener in the league at an average of 43.22 and strike rate of 158.34. Only Jake Weatherald, Stoinis and D'Arcy Short have scored more runs than Wade during this period, but they've all had the benefit of playing more innings than Wade.
Even in Australia's lead-up to the T20 World Cup, Wade had opened in New Zealand and West Indies, when David Warner was unavailable. Then, when Aaron Finch, the regular white-ball captain, missed the Bangladesh tour with injury, Wade even filled in as stand-in-captain and opening batter.
However, Wade had a disastrous tour of West Indies and Bangladesh, managing only 129 runs in 10 innings at a strike rate of 113.15. The conditions in Bangladesh, in particular, were fiendishly difficult for batting as the entire Australia line-up came a cropper there.
Australia have other keeping options in Josh Philippe, Alex Carey and Josh Inglis, who was a wildcard pick in the World Cup squad after impressing the Vitality Blast and the Hundred in the UK. Inglis made his case for the finisher role when he struck back-to-back fours, including an eye-catching scoop, off Kyle Jamieson to tip a thriller the Australians' way in against New Zealand at the Tolerance Oval.
Australia, though, showed faith in Wade once the main tournament got underway and he repaid them when he combined with Stoinis to secure opening victory in a low-scorer.
On Thursday, Stoinis and Wade got together again, with Australia's campaign on the line and a raucous Dubai crowd rallying behind Pakistan.
Some of Australia's batters didn't show enough game-smarts: Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh holed out, trying to clear the longer boundary against the intended legspin of Shadab. Stoinis and Wade, however, showed remarkable game-awareness even as the chase tightened.
Stoinis matches himself up with his Stars team-mate Rauf and pounds him for 6,4 to bring down the equation to 37 off 18 balls. Hasan Ali rolls out an offcutter and hides it away from the reach of Wade. But the batter crouches, waits for the ball to arrive, then opens up his hips and swipes it over long-on for six. It was a blameless ball from Hasan; Wade made it look a whole lot worse by putting it over the shorter boundary. It forced Hasan to alter his line and length as Wade picked him off his pads between short fine leg and deep square leg.
It was down to 22 off 12 balls. Babar Azam brings back Shaheen for the penultimate over. Stoinis plays out a dot first ball, survives an lbw appeal and gets a leg-bye off the second. Shaheen's plan is to bowl yorkers, but he darts it down the leg side for a wide. He goes for the yorker again but doesn't get it right. Wade doesn't get his leg-side slog right either, but Hasan drops him at deep midwicket. Panic stations in the Pakistan camp.
Australia still need 18 off nine. Wade just needs three balls to finish it off. Shaheen searches for a yorker. Wade anticipates it, jumps across off even before Shaheen delivers and audaciously ramps it over short fine leg for six. Shaheen tries to deny Wade pace by bowling a cutter, but the ball still disappears over midwicket. Shaheen goes back to the yorker. Wade goes back to the scoop. He commits early, lifts the ball over short fine leg and lifts Australia into the final with 6,6,6.
Shaheen sinks to his knees. He is inconsolable. Wade lets out a big roar and celebrates with an equally pumped Stoinis.
In the 2010 semi-final, Mike Hussey produced a calculated assault against Pakistan from a point of no return. Eleven years later, Wade provided a throwback to that Hussey epic, with a calculated assault of his own.
It looked like Wade's career - and Australia's campaign - was finished at various points, but instead, the new finisher finished off Pakistan in grand style.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo