Spinners do the trick for Pakistan as Watson and Warner flop together for the first time in the ICC World Twenty20 2012
Staring elimination in the face, Pakistan finally brought its ‘A’ game to the Super Eights, brushing Australia’s non-existent challenge aside in the most emphatic fashion to take a giant step towards the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20 2012.
All the plans it had put in place in its previous game against India but failed comprehensively to execute, were realised at the R Premadasa Stadium on Tuesday (October 2) evening as Pakistan conjured a 32-run victory, though even in defeat, Australia did nail down its semi-final berth.
Despite losing openers Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Nazir early, Pakistan thrived on a half-century third-wicket stand between Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal to post 149 for 6, not overwhelming by any stretch of the imagination but definitely challenging enough, given the depth of its spin attack on a slowing surface.
Shane Watson fell cheaply for the first time in the tournament and David Warner didn’t score too many either, exposing an undercooked and somewhat clueless middle-order to the turning ball. At various stages, Australia even looked like falling short of its mini-target of 112 required to reach the semis, but the poise of Mike Hussey salvaged something out of a miserable night as Australia finished on 117 for 7.
Hussey brought up his half-century and the semi-final spot in the final over of the chase and punched the air in celebration more at the latter than the former. Pakistan’s win put South Africa out of the last-four race but left India needing a commanding win in the game to follow for it to edge out Pakistan to the last four on better Net Run Rate.
Pakistan was spared the decision at the toss after George Bailey hit it lucky with the coin and decided that Australia would chase, for the fifth consecutive time in the competition. It was up to Pakistan to do all the running – post a reasonable total on the board and then work away at Australia with its assortment of spinners.
Australia has been heavily dependent all tournament on its opening tandem of Watson and Warner, both of whom have been in punishing form. While Australia did ride piggyback on the Watson-Warner show earlier in the tournament, it must have always wondered what would happen if both openers fell early.
It couldn’t have asked for a worse game in which to find out the answer. Both Watson and Warner fell on the sweep, bemused respectively by Hafeez and Raza Hasan, the impressive left-arm spinner who was named Man of the Match. From that moment, Australia was fighting a losing battle.
Hafeez used his generous complement of spin quite astutely, enjoying the liberty of not having to worry about the run rate following the dismissals of Watson and Warner inside the first five overs, with just 19 on the board. Umar Gul, the premier paceman, wasn’t brought on until the 18th over, like against South Africa, largely because the spinners were always on the money and ensured that Australia’s tally of 21 for 2 on the day was its worst ever in Power Plays in Twenty20 Internationals.
The pressure created by Hafeez and Raza was maintained by the rest, with Saeed Ajmal once against outstanding. He mixed his off-breaks and the superbly disguised doosra quite beautifully. Australia’s batsmen, who had seen a fair bit of Ajmal during their tour of the United Arab Emirates when they played three One-Day Internationals and as many T20Is, simply couldn’t fathom which way the ball was turning.
While the top two fell sweeping and Bailey missed a skidder from Ajmal to be trapped palpably in front, Cameron White and Glenn Maxwell’s lack of game-time clearly showed as they were caught going for big strokes with the pressure mounting with every delivery.
Earlier, Pakistan itself didn’t get off to the best start, losing Hafeez in the second over to Mitchell Starc, Australia’s stand-out bowler, but unlike in the game against India, it didn’t lose wickets in quick time. Imran Nazir drove a Watson full toss to mid-off, but Jamshed, returned to his favoured No. 3 position, and Akmal stitched together a crucial third-wicket stand worth 79 in just 53 deliveries to keep Pakistan’s hopes of a competitive total alive.
Australia was clearly not at its best, its fielding well below par, but the one mistake that could come back to haunt them was early in Jamshed’s innings. Jamshed had yet to open his account when he steered his second delivery, from Starc, to first slip. It was the kind of catch coaches give before the start of play; somehow, Maxwell contrived to put it down – he also misfielded on more than one occasion – and facilitated Pakistan’s stirring fightback.
Jamshed was ponderous to start with as Pakistan scored at no more than five-an-over for the first eight overs. When he did kick on, however, Australia had nothing in its armoury to stop him. It wasn’t crude slogging but fairly orthodox strokeplay, not unlike Akmal, but when both batsmen got out at the same score, within three deliveries of each other, Pakistan appeared to have sold itself short.
Abdul Razzaq, coming in for Yasir Arafat, played a crucial cameo towards the end, latching on to Pat Cummins who had a fairly disappointing evening, and while there was no tremendous final push, Pakistan did make 41 in the last five, and had scrambled to a competitive total. Which was made to look positively insurmountable by the brilliance of its spin bowlers.