ICC T20 World Cup semifinal Cricket

ICC T20 World Cup | Australia, Pakistan clash in battle of equals

Pakistan's Haris Rauf. File

Pakistan's Haris Rauf. File

Theirs was one of fiercest opening combinations in Test cricket when Australia was conquering literally every game they played. Come Thursday, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer will be planning the downfall of each other’s outfit in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup semifinal at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Only unbeaten team

While Hayden, in his maiden assignment as a member of Pakistan’s coaching staff, has been instrumental in Pakistan being the only unbeaten team in the tournament so far, he will know his boys’ task is cut out against his home team which has Langer in charge.

Besides, the semifinal could be touted as a curtain raiser to Australia’s first tour of Pakistan in 2022 after more than two decades, announced hours earlier.

Once Aaron Finch and Babar Azam step out for toss, though, Hayden and Langer will slide away from the limelight and will be chewing their nails in the dugout, hoping for their respective teams to continue their excellent run in the tournament so far.

Humdinger

Going by the form of the teams and their line-ups, it has the makings of a humdinger.

Finch and David Warner are the closest competitors to Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan in the race for the best opening combination of the tournament.

Ditto with the pace trios, with little to choose between Australia’s Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood and Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Hasan Ali, all of whom have left their footprints over the last three weeks.

Revelation

In this scenario, the battle of spinners could prove decisive. Adam Zampa has been a revelation for Australia, being the joint-highest wicket-taker in the Super-12 stage with 11 scalps.

On the contrary, despite their ability to stifle batters, neither Shadab Khan nor Imad Wasim have been amongst wickets consistently.

If Zampa spins his web around a fearsome middle- and late-middle order of Pakistan, with youngster Asif Ali joining the old warhorses Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, Australia could hope to end its run of mediocre returns at the biggest stage of the shortest format.

On the other hand, if Pakistan can halt Zampa’s dream run in the middle overs, Hayden can actually hope to wear a bigger smile than that of his left-handed opening partner.

Teams

Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.

Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik.

Match starts at 7.30 p.m. IST.


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Printable version | May 21, 2022 4:18:44 am | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/icc-t20-world-cup-australia-challenge-for-unbeaten-pakistan/article37420670.ece