By Shashank Kishore in Sylhet
Pakistan Women collapses to end on 91 for 9 after opening stand of 57 runs in Group A match at ICC Women’s World T20 2014
The win also meant that Australia raised its net run-rate above the other teams in the group to seal its berth in the semi-finals. At the same time, the final clash in the group between New Zealand and South Africa on Monday has now assumed the proportions of a virtual quarter-final.
In a direct vote of confidence in her batting unit, Meg Lanning opted to bat. Elyse Villani, who was left out of the previous game, was handed yet another chance, and she came up with a destructive unbeaten 90 in just 54 balls as Australia blazed to 185 for 2.
With Pakistan struggling to chase down totals lesser than that in its previous games, Javeria Khan and Bismah Maroof, the openers, came out with the mindset of occupying the crease and getting their eyes in. While they played a few eye-catching strokes, their dismissals triggered a sensational collapse and Pakistan eventually finished at 91 for 9.
Sana Mir, the Pakistan captain, hoped the team's experience of playing a lot of cricket overseas in the build up to the tournament would help the bowlers adjust. But that wasn't backed by practice as Pakistan was sent on a leather hunt for most parts of the Australian innings.
Alyssa Healy and Villani allowed themselves the luxury of settling in, something both had been guilty of not doing so far in the tournament. But all hell broke loose when Sadia Yousuf, the left-arm spinner, came on just after the Power Play overs, as Villani hit two fours and a six in a 17-run over and Australia was on the ascendancy.
Healy's wicket came against the run of play, but a collective sigh of relief quickly turned into dismay as Pakistan ran into Lanning. Lanning, fresh from a 65-ball 126 in the previous outing, continued from the other night, striking the ball effortlessly in a display of sustained aggression.
Along the way, Villani was handed a lifeline on 27 when Javeria put down a straightforward catch at deep backward square-leg in the tenth over off Yousuf. The let-off was perhaps the excuse Villani was looking for to tee off, as she quickly brought up her half-century in just 34 balls. But with Lanning also striking the ball cleanly, strike rotation took a back seat, though that didn’t matter in the end.
Lanning brought up her fifty off just 32 balls and perished off the next ball when she was caught at long-off in the penultimate over. Ellyse Perry then came out and blasted a six on her way to 12 in seven balls, while Villani, who was denied the strike towards the end, finished ten short of a century, her knock studded with six fours and five sixes.
Javeria and Maroof then started steadily and put together 57 in 11.2 overs. As the partnership steadied, Australia grew edgy, but one breakthrough was all it needed as the old saying of 'one brings two' proved spot on. The batting line-up was first softened up and then razed down as Pakistan lost nine wickets for just 34 runs.
Perry, who had looked a bit rusty with the ball earlier in the tournament, ran into some form at the crunch moment as she ended with 3 for 12 from her four overs, while Sarah Coyte also did her reputation no harm by finishing with 3 for 14.
Having done most things right in the tournament of late, Australia will hope the minor slip-up against New Zealand in the tournament opener won’t come back to haunt it.