Pat Cummins, then turned on the heat with telling blows at the top of the innings, to help round off a ruthless performance and register a 41-run win against Pakistan at Taunton in 2019 ICC World Cup.After a couple of days of incessant rain, it was a case of third time lucky at the ICC World Cup as Taunton, as finally play was possible at the venue, that allowed everyone to get back to what they were there for – cricket.
Pakistan won the toss and promptly put Australia into bat. Sarfaraz Ahmed’s decision seemed spot on as Mohammad Amir steamed in for a very probing first over to skipper Aaron Finch, before Shaheen Shah Afridi gave him a chance to free his arms – and Finch obliged to start off a 17-run fourth over with a six and open the floodgates.
Finch and Warner found their groove soon, or were rather given more than a helping hand in recovering their form. The duo shared a first-wicket stand of 146 - the highest partnership for any wicket at this World Cup till now – and laid the foundations for a mammoth score.
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In the process, Warner (107), who copped flak for his slow knock against India, silenced his critics by notching up his first century in ODIs since completing his ban for ball-tampering off 102 balls.
Finch should have been out for 26 when he edged Wahab Riaz only for first slip Asif Ali to floor a head-high catch. He was dropped again on 44 when wicket-keeper Sarfaraz could not hold a tough chance following an edged cut off Mohammad Hafeezs second ball.
The captain cashed in and with the help of six boundaries and four maximums scored 82 before miscuing an attempted big hit was gobbled up by Hafeez, much to the relief of Amir and the rest of the team.
A tentative Smith (10) found it hard to go through gears and holed out at mid-off as Hafeez spun Pakistan right back into the game.
Finch needed his side to keep the momentum and promoted Glenn Maxwell up the order and the all-rounder tried to hit his way out of trouble, but was bowled all ends up by young Shaheen Afridi.
Australia, who looked set for a big score, were starting to wobble. Shaun Marsh watched on, as Warner completed his 15th ODI ton when an outside edge off Shaheen flew past slip Asif for his 11th four.
But he was out soon afterwards, caught at deep point by Imam-ul-Haq off Shaheen, having gone past fifty for the third time in four innings this World Cup.
Pakistan’s bowlers had their tails up, and Amir, who’s selection was questioned, removed Usman Khawaja (18) and Shaun Marsh (23) quickly to further press home the advantage.
Riaz, who showed some signs of returning to his hostile ways like in the 2015 World Cup early in the innings, accounted for Nathan Coulter-Nile (2), before Amir trapped Alex Carey plumb with fiery yorker.
The icing on the cake for Amir, who single-handedly brought his side back into the reckoning, was when he outfoxed Mitchell Starc to complete his maiden fifer and bowl Australia out for 307.
While Pakistan’s bowlers failed to make the conditions count early on, Australia’s bowlers had no trouble.
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Openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-haq found it hard to get Mitchell Starc and Cummins away, and the early pressure paid rich dividends.
Cummins induced the big shot from Fakhar (0) and a thick edge made resulted in a comfortable catch for Kane Richardson at third-man.
Babar Azam (30), along with Imam however did not get bogged down and fought back to put on a half-century partnership for the second wicket. Azam’s stay was short lived, as Nathan Coulter-Nile forced him into an ill-advised pull shot and Richardson completed his second catch of the innings.
The Australians had Pakistan exactly where they wanted them – under pressure and losing wickets at regular intervals.
Mohammad Hafeez brought all his experience into play from then on in and along with Imam, steadied the ship with a solid 80-run partnership for the third wicket.
Australia, at this point, where looking to get in some quick overs but Hafeez had other ideas as he took the attack to Maxwell, smashing him for a six and four just before the drinks break.
Along with him, Imam slowly started play freely.
Facing Coulter-Nile, Imam (53) went over mid-off for a boundary to bring up his fifth ODI fifty, before a lapse in concentration saw him edge Cummins to Carey and give away his wicket softly.
A little over an over later, Hafeez’s (46) resilience ended in a shocking manner as he directed a full-toss from Finch straight into the hands of Starc at deep-midwicket. Three deliveries later Shoaib Malik (0) was sent packing after a brilliant catch from Carey, before taking a third catch to send Asif Ali (5) back to the pavilion.
Reeling at 160/6, Pakistan needed their captain Sarfaraz Ahmed to play out of his skin alongside the tail.
Hassan Ali clobbered three sixes and three fours to ease some of the pressure during a 15-ball 32, before Richardson snapped him up just as Pakistan touched 200.
Sarfaraz, who had survived a stumping chance, continued his battle, as Finch brought back Starc to give Riaz a taste of his own medicine.
Riaz (45) fended off most of what was thrown his way and got stuck in to trouble the Australians, with the bat, yet again. He used the long handle to good effect, before Starc finally won the battle.
Starc wasn’t done, as he cleaned up Amir two balls later, before Sarfaraz (40) in a bid to retain strike found himself was run-out by Maxwell.
Australia’s third win of the tournament has taken them up to second on the points table, while Pakistan are two places from bottom with three points to their name from four games.