Pakistan’s spinners, all five of them, gave Australia an almighty scare last night.
Pakistan easily won the game but Mike Hussey kept his composure as chaos broke out all around him to ensure Australia staggered into the semi finals of the World Twenty20.
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Australia secured their spot in the ICC World Twenty20 semi-finals on Tuesday despite a heavy loss to Pakistan.
Chasing 150 for victory, the Australians needed 112 to secure a net run rate high enough to carry them into the last four. It was, despite Australia’s status as the form team in the tournament, a close-run thing, as Hussey took his team past the magic number in the 20th over.
Despite the capitulation, Australia booked a semi-final against the West Indies on Friday, while Sri Lanka will play Pakistan in the other semi, tomorrow.
Pakistan bowled 17 overs of spin before calling on the pace of Umar Gul and all the Australians’ problems against the turning ball came back to them.
Shane Watson’s cloak of invincibility was removed and the middle order exposed. It was no surprise that Pakistan started with spin but few expected Raza Hasan, a 20-year-old left-arm spinner playing his 5th game, to inflict Watson’s first failure of the tournament, before claiming man of the match honours with 2-14.
Watson, attempting a sweep shot, was out lbw for eight. David Warner went the same way, to Mohammad Hafeez, and Australia was 2-19 after five overs. There was more spin to come, much more, as Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik took their turns at straining to expose the Australian middle order for the first time at this World Twenty20.
George Bailey, searching for a way to accellerate, hit Afridi for six over mid-wicket before missing a turning delivery from Ajmal. He’d escaped a confident lbw shout the previous ball but this time there was no reprieve and the Australian captain was out for 15 from 12 balls.
Cameron White was rattled when he hit Hafeez into the grill of his helmet, and was caught slogging the off-spinner into the deep for 12. Glenn Maxwell, whose night of horrors included a dropped catch in the slips, charged Hasan and was caught at backward point.
Australia slumped to 5-65 in the 14th over and and Matthew Wade was in for first his first hit of the tournament. The Victorian wicketkeeper worked well with Hussey until he was bowled by Ajmal with Australia still needing two runs to be safe in the semis.
Cummins departed next ball, struck on the pad, leaving Hussey to guide Australia to safety with a boundary glided behind square off Gul. Hussey punched the air, and the tension evaporated.
Mitchell Starc starred with the ball, starting with a devilish inswinging yorker to capture the wicket of Hafeez and finishing with figures of 3-20. Starc, the most-improved Australian paceman in a talented bunch, snaked his first ball into Hafeez’s pads and completed his bowling effort by knocking Shahid Afridi’s leg stump out of the ground in the last over of the innings.
Pakistan, lacking urgency early, got to 149 on the strength of a decent partnership between Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal. Jamshed was lucky to score 55 from 46 balls, as he was dropped on nought by Maxwell at first slip, off Starc’s bowling.
Maxwell is rarely stationed in the slips for Victoria because his speed is considered an asset in the outfield, and he made a mess of an edge that spat up as Jamshed’s bat scraped the ground.
Jamshed was Pakistan’s most consistent batsman against Australia during the recent tour of the United Arab Emirates and, although he was slow to get going last night, he struck some decisive blows against spinners Brad Hogg and Xavier Doherty, heaving Hogg straight down the ground to raise his half-century.
Pakistan lost momentum when Jamshed and Akmal departed three balls apart, and Akmal served up his wicket to Starc by hitting a simple catch to mid-off. The Australia-Pakistan game raised the curtain for the last Super Eights game between India and South Africa, which would finalise the last four.
Host nation Sri lanka and the West Indies had already qualified on the strength of brilliant bowling performances from Lasith Malinga and Sunil Narine, respectively.