When Glenn Maxwell was dismissed in the 12th over of the innings, the Australians needed 66 runs from 50 balls. They had seven wickets in hand at this point. To follow in the batting line-up was George Bailey, their captain, Brad Hodge, their most experienced Twenty20 player and Brad Haddin, their wicketkeeper-batsman. At this point, opener Aaron Finch was into his 30s.
Maxwell had scored 64 runs in boundaries, 36 of them via sixes. Australia’s run-rate was over 11 as Maxwell had stunned Pakistan with a display of clean hitting that was starting to put Umar Akmal’s 54-ball 94 in the shade. Umar was dropped on 22, which proved to be a costly miss. But Maxwell was single-handedly making up for his team’s follies while fielding.
Australia were chasing 192 for victory, a target that could be achieved only if someone played a special innings. And Maxwell had done just that.
Those sitting in the stands between deep midwicket and deep square-leg had the closest view of the white cricket ball in Mirpur on Sunday. Some of them would have wished they carried hard-hats with them to the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium. This is the arch Maxwell likes to target by using the sweep, the slog sweep and powerful heaves to the on-side. These are risky shots but Maxwell backs his strength. He did it with great success during his 48-minute stay at the wicket.
But when Ahmed Shehzad caught Maxwell at the mid-wicket boundary off the bowling of Shahid Afridi the game changed. In Twenty20 cricket where a single over can turn the tide, Afridi’s over, the 12th of the innings, proved to be the turning point. Afridi conceded just four runs in the over in addition to picking up the vital wicket of Maxwell.
It was the break Pakistan were hoping for when Maxwell was in full flow.
The delivery from Afridi was nothing special and Maxwell had even connected well. The ball looked bound for the stands. To the misfortune of Maxwell and Australia, it ended in the hands of the deep midwicket fielder.
Once Maxwell was gone, the rest of the batsmen struggled to score runs as the asking rate climbed. Just three fours were hit in as many overs as the scoring rate fell. Bailey made just four off nine balls before being bowled by Afridi. In the next over, Hodge was caught by Ajmal at deep point. Desperation set in as the momentum shifted. Finch was bowled by Ajmal. Three batsmen were dismissed for the addition of just 16 runs. Another four fell in the space of 13 runs and Australia had now lost the plot.
Earlier, it looked Australia wouldn’t make it even this far. Two batsmen capable of turning a game around were dismissed in the first over by left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar. The move to bowl Babar seemed to be a masterstroke because the Australians wouldn’t have seen much of him, who at 35 was playing only his fifth T20I.
David Warner was bowled and Shane Watson was caught behind. Pakistan had made this a one-sided contest. Or so it seemed. Maxwell made it his show by playing an innings that was peppered with shots on the on-side.
He even scored 30 runs off one over. Bilawal Bhatti was the poor bowler who bore the brunt of the aggression. A four, six and six brought up Maxwell’s half-century in just 18 balls. Bhatti under pressure to find a dot ball released a beamer. It beat everyone and went to the boundary. The next ball was a full toss that ended up near the extra-cover boundary.
Such was Maxwell’s impact on the game that none of the Pakistan bowlers could keep him in check. Finch was going at a much slower pace but he added to the misery. Afridi’s first over had gone for 15, Ajmal had conceded 13.
Yet, Pakistan found a way back into the match when Maxwell got out.
Brief scores: Pakistan 191 for five in 20 overs (U Akmal 94 off 54, K Akmal 31 off 31, S Afridi 20* off 11, N Coulter-Nile 2/36, D Bollinger 1/28, M Starc 1/35 ) beat Australia 175 all out in 20 overs (G Maxwell 74 off 33, A Finch 65 off 54, U Gul 2/29, Z Babar 2/26, S Afridi 2/30, S Ajmal 1/33) by 16 runs
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