HARARE: Opening batsman Fakhar Zaman smashed 91 off 46 balls as the top-ranked Pakistan romped to six-wicket win over Australia in the Twenty20 International tri-series final at the Harare Sports Club here on Sunday.
The left-hander’s third half century in the tournament included 12 fours and three sixes that lifted Pakistan to 187-4 with four balls to spare their highest ever successful run chase in a T20 International.
All-rounder Glenn Maxwell had reduced Pakistan to 2-2 in the first over but Zaman and Shoaib Malik, who scored an unbeaten 43, shared a century stand to see Pakistan home.
Australia, who won the toss and elected to bat, made 183-8 with openers D’Arcy Short scoring 76 and captain Aaron Finch making 47.
But Pakistan came back strongly after dropping Finch off the first ball and giving Short a life soon after he completed his half century.
Mohammad Amir took 3-33 and leg-spinner Shadab Khan got 2-38 as Australia lost wickets in clusters in the latter half of its innings.
“It’s a great team effort, credit to the bowlers,” Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said. “There were some dropped catches but we took the momentum in the second innings.”
Sarfraz paid glowing tribute to Fakhar while saying he is a big match player.
“I think nowadays he’s in the best form of his life,” Sarfraz of the left-handed opener who plundered 278 runs in five matches of this tri-series. “The way he’s batted throughout the series, it’s good for us, and good for his career. He performs in big games, consistently. In the Champions Trophy, in the final, he got that hundred against India. In New Zealand, he scored a fifty and then a 40 odd. He’s a big game player and he’s getting better day by day.”
Off-spinner Maxwell had debutant Sahibzada Farhan stumped off a down the leg side wide delivery and then Hussain Talat sliced an easy catch to backward point as both batsmen went without scoring.
But Sarfraz and the in-form Fakhar revived the innings with a 45-run stand before the Pakistan captain was run out after scoring 28 while going for a needless third run in the sixth over.
Fakhar and Malik, showing all the experience of an 18-year international career, then took time to settle down but took charge after 10 overs as Australia’s main wicket-takers Billy Stanlake (0-25) and Andrew Tye (0-33) both ended up
Spinner Ashton Agar (0-16) and the inexperienced Jack Wildermuth (016) were taken out of the attack after conceding 32 runs in two overs as Fakhar completed his half century off 30 balls with a straight six off Agar’s left-arm spin.
Fakhar, who put on 107 off 64 balls with Malik, finally holed out at deep backward point while going for a big shot off seamer Jhye Richardson.
“I’ve played here in 2016, the wickets were not that good then,” Fakhar, who was adjudged man-of-the-match and man-of-the-series, said. “Hard work in nets is the main thing. I take time at the start and play my natural game.”
Earlier, Malik dropped Finch off the first ball before the Australia captain and Short put on 95 runs off 59 balls.
But Pakistan struck regularly in the last 10 overs once Shadab broke the opening stand when Finch was caught at covers.
Inexperienced left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi, 18, dismissed Short in the 17th over and Amir struck twice in the last over to restrict Australia.
“I thought we should have got around 200 but we just kept losing the wickets, which stalled the momentum,” Finch said. “I thought we started well with the ball but Fakhar Zaman played one hell of a knock and a 90-odd in a T20 game is hard to beat.”
When Fakhar fell cutting out to deep cover, Pakistan still needed 30 from 24, but while Malik remained at the crease their chase was always safe. The victory capped a mixed day for Pakistan.
“We know they’re an emotional team, and they’re a highly skilled team,” Finch said. “When they’re on, they’re incredibly good. We let them back into the game with bat and ball today.”
From 95-0 after the first 10 overs, Australia lost eight wickets for 88 runs and their total was not quite enough to better Pakistan in the final analysis. The defeat means Australia have won just three of the last 11 internationals they have played on their tours of England and Zimbabwe.
Although consistent success continues to elude them, coach Justin Langer suggested that his charges would be all the better for the experience.
“We’ve shown our inexperience over the last six weeks, but we’ll be much better for it,” said Langer, who also hinted
that Finch could also assume the captaincy role in Australia’s one-day side.
“After this tour we’ll have a really close look at everything we’re doing at the moment including our leadership, which is such an incredibly high priority in Australian cricket. Finchy has definitely put his best foot forward in this series.
“We’ll look at that. We’ll look at all our staff. We’ll look at everything to make sure we keep flying forward, as is the expectation of the Australian cricket team.”
D.J.M. Short c Farhan b Shaheen 76
A.J. Finch c Farhan b Shadab 47
G.J. Maxwell c Asif b Shadab 5
M.P. Stoinis c Fakhar b Amir 12
T.M. Head c Hasan b Amir 19
A.T. Carey c Shadab b Faheem 2
A.C. Agar b Hasan 7
J.D. Wildermuth not out 1
A.J. Tye b Amir 0
J.A. Richardson not out 6
EXTRAS (LB-4, W-3, NB-1) 8
TOTAL (for eight wkts, 20 overs) 183
FALL OF WKTS: 1-95, 2-109, 3-146, 4-148, 5-166, 6-176, 7-176, 8-177.
DID NOT BAT: B. Stanlake.
Bowling: Mohammad Amir 4-0-33-3 (1w); Faheem Ashraf 4-0-38-1 (2w); Hasan Ali 4-0-38-1 (1nb); Shaheen Shah Afridi 4-0-32-1; Shadab Khan 4-0-38-2.
Fakhar Zaman c Maddinson b Richardson 91
Sahibzada Farhan st Carey b Maxwell 0
Hussain Talat c Richardson b Maxwell 0
Sarfraz Ahmed run out 28
Shoaib Malik not out 43
Asif Ali not out 17
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-1, W-6) 8
TOTAL (for four wkts, 19.2 overs) 187
FALL OF WKTS: 1-2, 2-2, 3-47, 4-154.
DID NOT BAT: Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
BOWLING: Maxwell 3-0-35-2 (1w); Stanlake 4-0-25-0; Richardson 4-0-29-1 (1w); Tye 4-0-33-0; Stoinis 2.2-0-31-0; Wildermuth 1-0-16-0 (4w), Agar 1-0-16-0.
RESULT: Pakistan won by six wickets.
UMPIRES: L. Rusere (Zimbabwe) and Russell Tiffin (Zimbabwe).
TV UMPIRE: T.J. Matibiri (Zimbabwe).
MATCH REFEREE: J.J. Crowe (New Zealand).
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Fakhar Zaman.
MAN-OF-THE-SERIES: Fakhar Zaman.
Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2018