Warner, Marsh blitz flattens Pakistan

Published October 21, 2023
AUSTRALIAN opener Mitchell Marsh plays a shot as Pakistan wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan looks on during their World Cup match at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Friday. — AFP
AUSTRALIAN opener Mitchell Marsh plays a shot as Pakistan wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan looks on during their World Cup match at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Friday. — AFP

THE M. Chinnaswamy Stadium began bouncing on Friday night as Pakis­tan’s burden got heavier. As long as Mohammad Riz­wan, their man of crisis, was at the crease Pakistan harboured hopes of overhauling a mammoth 368-run target against Australia.

Australian openers David Warner and Mitchel Marsh — although helped by Pakistan’s poor fielding — had registered centuries each, launching fireworks earlier.

Pakistan believed they could as well on a belter of a pitch, despite most of the spectators present at the intimate venue cheering for the Australians.

Impressed by Iftikhar Ahmed’s massive sixes — he hit three of them in a 20-ball 26, the crowd chanted “Chacha, Chacha”, calling the explosive right-hander by his moniker.

But just when it seemed Pakistan were gaining mo­m­entum, needing 103 to win off 12 overs with six wickets in hand, disaster struck. Spinner Adam Zam­pa returned to bowl the 39th over and his flipper rapped Iftikhar on the pads as he went to cut. There was no reprieve for the right-hander on review and soon Rizwan was to follow.

Rizwan (46) shuffled across to sweep another flipper by Zampa but was hit on his back leg. Another review lost, and there was no way back for Pakistan, who eventually fell to a 62-run defeat — the second on the trot for Babar Azam’s men at the World Cup after their mauling at the hands of India.

They had a sniff here, though. Imam-ul-Haq (70) and Abdullah Shafique (64) had given Pakistan a decent start with a 134-run opening partnership but it didn’t come close to one by Warner and Marsh.

The duo feasted on Pakistan’s bowling and capitalised on the spills — Warner being dropped twice; on 10 and 105 before he was eventually dismissed for 163 of 124 balls with his innings laced with 14 fours and nine sixes.

But it was Marsh (121) who began the onslaught when he lofted Shaheen Shah Afridi for a six down the ground after Australia had been put into bat.

Warner got going with a flick of Hasan Ali for six but that could’ve been that if Usama Mir — coming in as Shadab Khan’s replacement — hadn’t let the ball slip through his hands after the veteran left-hander had skied Shaheen’s bouncer.

Marsh celebrated his par­tner’s new life with an­other boundary, once again off a cracking cut shot. Apart from Shaheen (5-54), every other Pakis­tan bowler came in Warner and Marsh’s radar and the pair brought up Australia’s 50 in the ninth over when the former cut Haris Rauf for four and paddled the express pacer for a blistering six over square-leg.

Haris gave away 24 runs in that over and by the end of the 10th, Australia were flying at 82-0. The century stand and Warner’s half-century arrived in the 13th over while Marsh reached 50 two overs later.

Australia touched 150 in the 21st over and the 200 mark with 20 more to go — breaking the record for Australia’s highest-ever opening partnership in a World Cup when they crossed 183.

By that time, Marsh and Warner had brought up their hundreds off 100 and 85 balls respectively. Adding to Pakistan’s misery was that Abdullah floored a chance off Warner in deep cover.

The onslaught continued until Shaheen returned to strike in the 34th over with Marsh, who hit 10 fours and nine sixes, clipping the pacer to Usama. It was followed by the dismissal of Glenn Maxwell off the very next ball as he holed out to Babar at mid-off.

The Pakistan captain dropped Steve Smith five balls later off Usama but the former Australian skipper was caught by the leg-spinner off his own bowling soon after.

Warner launched Usama for a six over midwicket to bring up his 150 off 116 balls just before Australia crossed the 300 mark. But it was finally over for the batter when he found substitute Shadab at long on off Haris.

Shaheen would then go on to dismiss Marcus Stoinis, Starc and Hazlewood in quick succession but Australia still ended with 367-9.

Pakistan had chased down a World Cup-record score of 345 in the second match of their campaign against Sri Lanka and the opening stand had flickered hopes they could pull off a bigger chase.

Abdullah and Imam built a partnership with confident strokes and rotation of strike with both enjoying reprieves.

Abdullah got it on 27 with substitute Sean Abbott spilling a simple chance over the boundary off Pat Cummins while the skipper then dropped Imam off Zampa when the batsman was on 48.

But Marcus Stoinis str­uck with his first ball when Abdullah edged a short ball to Maxwell before Imam fell in his next over, caught at third man.

Cummins then pulled off a splendid catch at mid-wicket off Zampa (4-53) to dismiss Babar, whose poor run with the bat continued, for 18. A 47-run stand between Rizwan and Saud Shakeel stabilised the chase, only for Cummins to dismiss the latter before Zampa removed Iftikhar.

The leggie then sent back Rizwan to put his side firmly on top before removing Pakistan’s last hope when he had Mohammad Nawaz stumped with his final delivery as Australia, who had opened with two heavy losses, moved above Pakistan into fourth on the points table with a second straight win.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2023

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