Pakistan staged a dramatic comeback after a dismal show against perennial rivals India to increase their chances of qualifying for the semifinal of the ICC World Twenty20. They not only brought down the high-flying Australians with a convincing spin-inspired 32-run victory at the R Premadasa International Stadium, but also left their archrivals a daunting task against South Africa, who will play only for pride, in the last Super Eights match at the same venue to qualify for the semifinals.
But Australia will take solace from the fact that they at least achieved their target of reaching the semifinals — becoming the first team from Group to do so — which was why Michael Hussey punched the air in joy after hitting a boundary off the first ball of the final over from Umar Gul. It seemed as if Australia won the match, but the reality was that the boundary took them through to the semifinals as Australia crossed 112, the target they knew they had to overcome to make the last four.
Pakistan rode on controlled bowling from the spinners to defy Hussey a repeat of his heroics in the last World Twenty20 against the same opponents he had then played a blinder to eliminate Pakistan in a Saint Lucia semifinal. This time though Pakistan kept their cool to halt the winning streak of the Aussies, who played out their 20-over quota for a paltry 117 for seven in reply to Pakistan’s 149 for six.
But the left-hander’s unbeaten knock of 54 off 47 balls, that contained four boundaries and a six, was as precious as it could be as at one stage it seemed that the biggest upset was going to take place after the way the Australian middle-order was caught in the web of spin following the early dismissals of the two in-form openers Shane Watson and David Warner.
“I’m grateful to see the effort put in by the boys. We got the total we wanted, Raza Hasan was brilliant,” said Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez after the emphatic victory against Australia.
A big talking point surrounding the match was how Pakistan would manage to neutralise Shane Watson, who is the highest run-getter and wicket-taker in the tournament so far. Left-arm spinner Raza Hasan got the big fish early, trapping the right-hander in front to give Pakistan the momentum in the match and then captain Mohammad Hafeez trapped Warner quickly to test the Australian middle-order for the first time in the tournament.
Man-of-the-match Raza Hasan took one more wicket, that of Glenn Maxwell, to finish with staggering figures of 2-14 in four overs.
Earlier, Pakistan also took time to get off the blocks and lost both openers quickly. But Kamran Akmal joined Nasir Jamshed to share a 79-run third-wicket stand to revive Pakistan’s hopes and some late hitting from Abdul Razzak, who was selected in place of Yasir Arafat, gave Pakistan a fighting total.
All the Australians bowled well except Pat Cummins who conceded 42 for one wicket in four overs while left-arm spinner Brad Hogg gave away 29 runs in three overs.
Jamshed, who was dropped by Maxwell in the second over at slip, hammered four boundaries and two sixes during his 46-ball 55. Kamran Akmal contributed 32 and their knocks helped give their something to bowl at, which proved too much for Australia.
-With The Daily Star input