PAKISTAN STEAL THE SHOW, CRUISING TO A 66 RUN VICTORY OVER THE TOURISTS IN THE OPENING T20I OF THE SERIES
It was a night for the bowlers at Zayed Cricket Stadium, as wickets fell like the pattering of rain becoming a flood. Thirteen of them went down in no time at all. The tally was divided between the competing nations: 7 in 27 balls towards the end of Pakistan’s innings, 6 in 33 balls to start Australia’s.
The difference was that Pakistan’s collapse happened after a decent score was already on the board. Australia’s started so fast that they spent much of the night in danger of beating their lowest ever T20 score of 79.
They averted that by 10 runs, but were bowled out for 89 in the 17th over to lose by 66.
The match-defining partnership was the 73 between Mohammad Hafeez, who made 39, and Babar Azam, who finished unbeaten on 68.
Babar’s anchor role from 55 balls served his side to perfection, allowing a total to be built after Australia chose to chase. That total might have looked slender, but only if you underestimated the difficulty of timing shots on the surface.
That much was obvious by the clatter of wickets as Pakistan’s other batsmen tried to attack. Fakhar Zaman had a great Test match here last week, but was too optimistic about handling the bounce when he tried to cart the giant Billy Stanlake from outside off stump on the pull.
Babar meanwhile scythed the ball away stylishly, off the pads, on the pull, then the cut. Hafeez whacked Stanlake on the straight drive, Stanlake retorted with a pelt to Hafeez on the head, but the Pakistan’s veteran kept his wits about him long enough to launch sixes from Australian spinners Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa.
He couldn’t go three from three, giving left-arm wrist spinner D’Arcy Short his first international wicket when Ben McDermott held a catch at long on. The new batsmen weren’t able to find the tempo, and the slide began.
Zampa had Asif Ali trapped on the pad, before variation seamer AJ Tye got Hussain Talat and Faheem Ashraf in consecutive balls. Stanlake did Sarfraz for pace, whizzing past the bat to crash into his pad in front of middle, and the Captain’s DRS referral couldn’t save him from that.
Within a couple of balls Stanlake had another, Shadab Khan sending a big top edge swirling to deep fine leg. Then Imad Wasim, in his comeback to the side, slapped Tye to cover first ball.
What had been 105 for 1 had become 133 for 7, and Babar had only got to face 11 balls in the interim, one of which he’d pulled for six. It took a late flurry from Hasan Ali to put some air back into the score.
After squeezing a ball past his leg stump for four, Hasan leant back to batter the next over long-on with a pull shot, then the same shot went straighter and came off Short’s hands over the rope for four.
That meant 17 off the last over, lifting Pakistan to 155. However, in the end, those runs weren’t needed. The left-arm spinner, Imad, clean bowled Finch in the first over as the batsman tried to play off his stumps, then had Short chopping on.
Maxwell went the same way as Finch, but facing Faheem’s medium pacers. McDermott was run out the same over to a delayed-action bail drop after Fakhar’s throw skimmed the stumps. Imad drew Carey’s edge the next over, then Chris Lynn missed a big drive against Faheem the next ball.
That made 22 for 6 after a mere 5.2 overs, and the match was all but gone. Agar and Coulter-Nile lashed some runs in an entertaining fashion. But Hasan Ali got to pull out his trademark celebration after drawing Agar’s edge on 18, then got to pull out an epic catch, diving backwards at long on when Zampa attempted a drive.
Young pace sensation Shaheen Afridi blasted out Tye’s middle stump, and leg-spinner Shadab Khan cleaned up Coulter-Nile for 34. Everyone got in on the action. For the crowds on Zayed Cricket Stadium’s grass banks, the night was complete.
The teams now travel to Dubai where they will face one another in two more T20i matches on Friday October 26th and Sunday October 28th.