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  • Australia v Pakistan, World T20

Pakistan hold on in high-voltage game

The Report by Brydon Coverdale
March 23, 2014 « Praying for Wenger to stay | Test Wayin World Cup »
Umar Akmal's 94 set up Pakistan's win © Getty Images
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Pakistan 191 for 5 (Umar Akmal 94) beat Australia 175 (Maxwell 74, Finch 65) by 16 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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

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