Australia’s top four batsmen all posted half-centuries as they beat Pakistan by 20 runs to complete a 5-0 one-day series whitewash in Dubai on Sunday.
Sent out to bat, Australia finished with a commanding total of 327-7 on a flat Dubai International Cricket Stadium pitch.
Opener Usman Khawaja was all set for his third hundred this month but fell for 98 to fast bowler Usman Shinwari.
Glenn Maxwell, meanwhile, celebrated his 100th one-day international with an impressive 33-ball 70, Shaun Marsh scored 68-ball 61 and captain Aaron Finch made 69-ball 53 to put Australia in control at halfway stage.
It was Maxwell’s third consecutive 50-plus score, giving him a timely boost in intense competition for the middle-order spots for the World Cup starting on May 30 in England and Wales.
Khawaja and Finch laid the foundations with a solid 134-run opening stand but it was Maxwell’s 10 fours and three sixes that helped Australia to 107 runs in the last 10 overs.
Pakistan lost opener Abid Ali, who scored a century on debut in the last match, for a golden duck in the first over but Shan Masood and Haris Sohail got the run chase on track with a steady partnership of 108 for the second wicket.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa celebrated his 27th birthday by trapping Masood (50) leg-before to give Australia a crucial breakthrough, before Maxwell’s off-spin removed Mohammad Rizwan for 12.
Sohail smashed his second century of the series but holed out to paceman Kane Richardson for 130 when the run-rate pressure forced him to go for broke in the 41st over.
Captain Imad Wasim scored an unbeaten 50 to reduce the deficit but the task proved too big for Pakistan who finished 307-7 after 50 overs.
“It’s very satisfying,” said Australia coach Justin Langer.
“We came here in September and Pakistan showed us how to play cricket (with 3-0 Twenty20 series win). We worked really hard in the summer to turn it around, and 5-0 is a great result.
“Everyone in world cricket is working towards the World Cup, and it’s always nice to go into the tournament with confidence. We’ve got some now.”
The win was Australia’s eighth in a row after their 3-2 comeback victory in the series in India this month.
Finch fires Australia back into World Cup contention
The turnaround for Australia is all the more remarkable given that it comes in the wake of a six-series losing streak dating back to January 2016.
“If you think back to six months ago, a lot of people were slamming us, a lot of people were writing us off for not just one-day cricket but all forms of cricket,” Finch told reporters.
“When you’re building towards something and you’ve changed a bit of your strategy and game plan, I think it can take a little bit of time to develop.
“It took a bit of time for guys maybe to fully buy into it and believe that it was the right way to play one-day cricket and the right strategy to go with.”
As Australia stumbled through a dreadful 2018 in the wake of the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal, Finch’s poor form with the bat was emblematic of the team’s struggles.
The stocky opening batsman has played a huge part in the team’s revival, however, smashing 451 runs at an average of 112.75 against Pakistan to top the runs list and be named player of the series.
Finch was dismissed for under 50 just once against Pakistan and fell only 27 runs short of George Bailey’s Australian record of 478 for the most runs scored in a bilateral series.
“It was probably my most consistent (series) as a batter,” said Finch.
“I think if you look back through my career, there’s been times when I’ve got a couple of hundreds an there will be some really low scores in there as well.
“It was nice to get a good start each game and still kicking myself at a couple of chances, (and innings) where I could have gone on and got some really big match-winning scores.”