World Cup

Australia sets up virtual quarterfinal against India

Wrecker-in-chief: After Australia erected a towering 193 for four, James Faulkner's five-for, the first in the tournament, helped restrict Pakistan to 172 for eight. - Photo: Akhilesh Kumar  

One could see the familiar glint in the Aussie eyes, suggesting they might be peaking at the right time, after their purposeful batting and well-planned bowling fetched them a 21-run victory over a directionless Pakistan in the World T20 at the PCA Stadium here on Friday.

Australia's win ensured that its last group encounter against India here on Sunday will be a virtual quarterfinal. It also confirmed Pakistan’s exit from the event.

Starting from the toss, everything fell into place for Steve Smith and his men. Bolstered by a responsible unbroken 74-run stand between Smith (61 not out) and Shane Watson (44 not out), Australia erected a towering 193 for four and banked on wrecker-in-chief James Faulkner's five-for, the first in the tournament, to restrict Pakistan to 172 for eight, much to Shahid Afridi’s disappointment.

High point

The high point of Australia's batting was its ability to fight back. Usman Khawaja continued with his brilliant touch to get a rapid-fire 21 and seize the initial momentum.

The hard-hitting Aaron Finch, returning to the XI, played an unusually sedate role.

Australia was pegged back by Wahab Riaz’s two wickets in quick succession; Khawaja missed an accurate yorker while trying to make room, and dangerman David Warner was beaten by pace.

Left-arm spinner Imad Wasim breached Finch’s defence in the eighth over, and Afridi used himself and Imad in tandem in the hope of stifling the Australians.

A better plan

However, a composed Smith and the explosive Glenn Maxwell (30) had a better plan. Smith preferred to rotate the strike and Maxwell gave him good support.

The pair forged a timely 62-run partnership off 38 balls to set the stage for a bigger onslaught. Maxwell, who reached the fence four times, including a four and a six off a Mohammad Sami over, was snared by Ahmed Shehzad at long-on off Imad. What followed was pure entertainment for 40 minutes from two stalwarts, Smith and Watson.

Smith broke a string of poor performances against Pakistan to score a 43-ball 61, his second half-century in the shortest version. Known for his strong on-side game, the Australian captain hammered six of his seven fours through the off-side and made the Pakistan attack look ordinary.

Shuffling across beyond his off-stump in a Riaz over only highlighted the Aussie’s thorough control over the situation. At the other end, the gigantic Watson clobbered the Pakistan pacers on both sides to hit four fours and three sixes in his breezy 21-ball unbeaten 44.

The Smith-Watson stand nearly shut the opponent out of the contest.

In reply, Pakistan again suffered due to its poor endgame in a big run chase. Following Sharjeel Khan’s early blitz (30 off 19), it was a familiar script heading towards disaster despite the efforts of Khalid Latif (46, 41), Umar Akmal (32, 20) and Shoaib Malik (40, 20).

A master of the back-of-the-hand slower ball, Faulkner foxed the Pakistan batsmen at will and claimed two wickets apiece in his last two overs, achieving a rare feat and a much-needed win for Australia.


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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 9:15:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/world-cup/world-t20-australia-sets-up-virtual-quarterfinal-against-india/article8397078.ece

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