Australia beat Pakistan by 41 runs in a nail-biting finish at Taunton on Wednesday in the 17th match of the World Cup. David Warner was named Man of the Match.
Opener Fakhar Zaman was the first casualty this innings. He dispatched the ball straight into Kane Richardson’s hands at third man and returned to the pavilion without scoring any runs in the second over.
Babar Azam had struck up a partnership with Imamul Haq that saw the green shirts’ run rate inching towards – but still falling short of – the 6.39 required at the time. But he was sent packing in the 11th over when he sent a short delivery by Nathan Coulter-Nile straight to Richardson at fine leg.
With Azam’s dismissal, Coulter-Nile reached a milestone of 50 ODI wickets. The comfortable rhythm Imam (53) and Mohammad Hafeez (46) had settled into was disrupted by Pat Cummins who got Imam caught down leg side in the 26th over with a delivery that looked like it would have been a wide.
Hafeez was caught out by Mitchell Starc one over later. It looked like the game was all but over when Shoaib Malik, who replaced Hafeez on the pitch, was sent back to the pavilion after facing just two deliveries.
Asif Ali managed to hang on for a couple of overs before being dismissed for five runs in the 30th over. Sarfaraz and Hasan Ali (32) managed a brief partnership, but Usman Khawaja jumped in and spoiled it in the 34th over, getting Hassan to send Richardson a catch at fine leg.
Pakistan are wearing black armbands as a mark of respect for former international cricketer Akhtar Sarfaraz and umpire Riazuddin, both of whom passed away recently.
Australia looked set for a huge total in Taunton while David Warner and captain Aaron Finch (82) shared a first-wicket stand of 146 – the highest partnership for any wicket at this World Cup to date.
But left-arm quick Mohammad Amir dragged Pakistan back into the game, returning figures that surpassed his previous best of 4-28 and are the best in the World Cup so far.
Warner posted his first international century since returning from a 12-month ban before Pakistan rallied to dismiss the defending World Cup champions for 307.
“I think I left a few (runs) out there,” Warner admitted during the break between innings. “The second spell from Mohammad Amir was fantastic. We have got to come out and bowl Test match line and length and be very disciplined.”
Both Warner and Steve Smith – also returning from a year-long ban for ball-tampering – had been jeered by fans in previous games but Pakistani fans largely heeded an appeal from captain Sarfaraz Ahmed not to boo the pair, preferring to roar chants of “Amir!, Amir!”.
Amir was on target right from the start with a probing maiden – one of two in an initial four-over spell that cost a mere 11 runs.
The left-armer’s outstanding attack saw him pick up a career-best five-wicket haul in ODIs. According to cricket statistician Mazher Arshad, Amir’s 5-30 are the best bowling figures for Pakistan in a World Cup match against a Test playing team.
According to the Pakistan Cricket Board, his performance has made him the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.
The Aussies maintained a steady strike rate throughout their innings despite the rapid fall of middle-order wickets following the termination of the opening partnership.
Finch tried to smash Amir for a boundary but got caught out by Mohammad Hafeez in the 23rd over with 82 runs.
He was succeeded by Smith. Asif Ali caught Smith out for 10 off a delivery from Hafeez in the 29th over.
His successor, Glenn Maxwell, was bowled by Shaheen Shah Afridi, who then went onto take Warner’s all-important wicket in the 38th over after a century came up for the Aussie batsman.
Warner edged between wicketkeeper and slip for a boundary and took off to punch the air to celebrate his first century since returning to Australia’s team following his ban. He stroked 11 boundaries and a six from 102 balls to reach his hundred in the 36th over of the match.
Warner was booed by the crowd in each of his previous appearances at the World Cup, and was under pressure despite scoring runs because his unbeaten 89 against Afghanistan, his three against West Indies and his 56 against India all came at an uncharacteristically slow run-rate.
He was only jeered by the heavily pro-Pakistan crowd when he was dropped cold by Asif at third man on 104, but that was more likely frustration at yet another fielding error by the green shirts.
Amir struck again in the 43rd over, getting Usman Khawaja to send a drive straight to Wahab Riaz on the circle at mid-off.
Two overs later, he had Shaun Marsh caught at long off by Shoaib Malik.
Shortly after, Sarfaraz caught Coulter-Nile off a delivery from Wahab in the 47th over. In the next over, Hassan Ali got PJ Cummins out.
Hassan’s short ball caught Cummins by surprise. The pace was too much, and it was an easy catch for Sarfaraz.
Amir took two more wickets in the 49th over – Alex Carey on LBW and Mitchell Starc caught by Shoaib – taking his total in the match to 5 scalps – a career-best, and the highest so far in the tournament.—AFP