Fakhar Zaman’s career-best 91 and Mohammad Amir’s 3 for 33 stood out in Pakistan’s six-wicket win over Australia in the final of the Twenty20 International triangular series at the Harare Sports Club on Sunday (July 8).
Opting to bat, Australia rode on Darcy Short’s 76 and his opening stand of 95 with Aaron Finch, the captain, to post 183 for 8. Glenn Maxwell removed Shahibzada Farhan, the debutant, and Hussain Talat for ducks in the first over of Pakistan’s chase, but Zaman held the innings together with key partnerships with Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik to ensure that the job got done in 19.2 overs. Malik was unbeaten on 43 off 37 balls when Asif Ali hit the winning boundary.
Short, making a comeback after missing the last league game, opened the innings with a first-ball four off Amir, while Finch was lucky to be dropped off the first ball he faced in the match from Faheem Ashraf. The duo hit a total of seven fours and five sixes in their 59-ball partnership before Shadab Khan, the legspinner, had Finch caught by Farhan for a 27-ball 47.
Australia’s middle order had a strong base to build on, but none of the batsmen clicked. Maxwell lasted five balls before becoming Shadab’s second wicket, and even though Short was dropped once and Australia hit three consecutive sixes, Pakistan were always in control in the middle overs.
Short and Marcus Stoinis put on 37 before the duo perished in the space of three runs. With Australia reduced to 148 for 4 in 16.2 overs, they needed someone to take responsibility in the death overs. Instead, Pakistan’s bowlers conceded just 35 runs off the last 22 balls of the innings to keep Australia to a total far fewer than what appeared on the cards.
Amir picked up two wickets in the final over to complete a three-wicket haul. All the five bowlers deployed picked up at least a wicket, as four Australian batsmen were dismissed for single-digit scores. After Finch’s 47, Travis Head’s 19 was the next highest score of the innings.
Australia played out a total of 46 dot balls, but more crucially for Pakistan, they hit only 13 fours and nine sixes.
With Pakistan reduced to 2 for 2 in 0.4 overs in their chase, they needed stability, which was offered by Zaman and Sarfraz with a stand of 45 runs. They made their intentions clear in the third over of the innings from Maxwell, which went for 21 runs.
Sarfraz looked in good nick, hitting a six and four fours in his 19-ball 28, but was run out in the sixth over. Pakistan’s batting depth is one of the reasons for their No. 1 T20I ranking, and it came to the fore once again as Zaman went about adding 107 runs with Malik.
Zaman offered a brilliant advertisement of innings-construction as he found the boundary with regular ease. There were hardly any dot balls, as strike rotation remained his focus. He brought up his half-century with a straight six off Ashton Agar, and then followed it up with two consecutive fours to put Pakistan in the driver’s seat.
He then hit Andrew Tye for three fours in four balls, leaving Pakistan needing only 57 in the last seven overs.
Malik was the ideal partner, as he went about providing the strike to Zaman. The duo was finally separated in the 16th over when Jhye Richardson had Zaman caught at deep backward point. The opener, who smashed a century in Pakistan’s Champions Trophy final victory over Indian last year, hit 12 fours and three sixes in his 46-ball knock.
Malik and Asif then hit two sixes off Richardson in the 18th over to reduce the equation to 11 needed off the last 12 balls. Another four off Tye to start the 19th over hastened the end.