Match: 3rd T20i Pakistan vs Australia (Pakistan lead the three-match series 2-0)
Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Date and Time: Monday, September 10th 2012, 21:00 PST / 16:00 GMT
Overall Rivalry: Twice as good; Pakistan 6 wins Australia 3 wins
Momentum in the last five encounters: Carnage; Pakistan-4, Australia-1
Weather Report: Partial clouds in the evening but no chances of rain. Low of 32 Celsius with a heat index of 36 Celsius. The wind will be a few km/h stronger than preceding nights but the players will be looking forward to catch the earliest possible flight out of the desert heat.
22-Yard Report: Australia were 89 all out in the first game and came back hard chasing 151 in the second. The fast bowlers already have some movement, the spinners have some bite and the batsmen have some of those balls right in the middle of their blade. The curator has done a great job in giving a level playing field for the competition so far and the pitch in the last game should again reward with any good cricket that is played on it.
Game On: Not sure if the Friday prayers inspired or the vibe of a full house Pakistani crowd conspired with the universe but Friday continued to be a blessed day for Pakistan cricket in the UAE. The second T20 was more than just a tied match – Pakistan won through a super over to go up two nil in a three match series. It was a game that might have made Pakistan break their mental shackles the Australians had put them under for over a decade.
Rewind back to Hobart in the summer of 99 down under, Pakistan had the Aussies reeling at a 126/5 chasing a mammoth 369 in the fourth innings of a Test. Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist tore apart the bowling line which consisted of WasimAkram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhter and Saqlain Mushtaq and took Australia home to one of the more improbable wins in history. The Aussies went on to white wash Pakistan in that series and followed it up with a white wash in every Test series played over the next decade.
After Pakistan’s World Cup final annihilation earlier that year at Lord’s, the fate of ODIs was no different where the Aussies won 28 of the 40 ODIs with Pakistan winning only nine. While the primary reason of that record has to be attributed to the quality of the legendary Australian team of the previous decade, a part of it can be credited to Pakistan’s psychological submission while playing them.
During the time of Australian dominance, there were many occasions when Pakistan had a strangle hold in a match only to lose their grip on it later. The last-ball loss in the ICC champions trophy, the afternoon when Shoaib Akhter floored Australia in the third innings of a futile Test in Colombo, the thrashing at the hands of Andrew Symonds at the World Cup in South Africa, the infamous Sydney Test that Kamran Akmal dropped and the jaw dropping Hussey innings in the World T20 semi-final in West Indies are a few of the many Australian nightmares of a Pakistani cricket fan. For the cricketers though it was more than just that; it was the ground reality they had to live with whenever facing the Australians.
Most times, Pakistan would lose the game before walking on to the field and if by some miracle of collective or individual brilliance they were in a position to win, that same lack of self-belief would often become their biggest hindrance in crossing the finish line against the Aussies.
Until Michael Hussey was at the crease on Friday, there was a sense of fear in the hearts of all Pakistanis irrespective of what the scoreboard had to say. The ghosts of the past were looming inside their heads, including the fresh Hussey wounds from the final ODI loss received a few days earlier, until they finally saw his back in the 16th over.
Good captaincy, Ajmal’s magic, fielding brilliance, cool nerves and luck had all played their part on Friday but perhaps it was the quality of the current Australian team compared to the previous one that made the biggest difference in the result. From the modern day invincibles who, to be fair, destroyed not just Pakistan but every nation that came in their path, only Hussey has survived along with Michael Clarke who continues to focus on purer forms of the game.
Under normal circumstances, a fourth ranked team is but expected to win against a team that is joint-ranked at nine. Would the Pakistanis have celebrated this win in similar fashion if it were against Ireland? The taste of this super over and series victory goes far beyond what meets the eye and can only be savoured by those who recognise its true worth and have craved for its flavour long enough.
Australians always have and will always be one of the toughest sides to beat with their academies nourishing some of the world’s best cricketing talent. Hopefully for Pakistan’s sake, a leaf has been turned and it should not take another decade to win a three game series in at least one form of the game, if not all, against their biggest cricketing nemeses.