Australia ticked almost all boxes and registered a narrow 14-run win against Pakistan in the second warm-up match at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Tuesday. Pakistan has now lost both its warm-up matches ahead of its opener against Netherlands on October 6.
Batting first on a belter of a track, Australia posted a massive 351/7 in 50 overs. Pakistan in reply folded for 337 with Babar Azam once again playing an inspiring innings. Marnus Labuschagne was the pick of the bowlers with a three-wicket haul as Pat Cummins and Mitchell Marsh took two wickets. Glenn Maxwell and Sean Abbott scalped one apiece.
Chasing a stiff target, Babar stood tall with his batting show, hammering a 59-ball 90 to resurrect the run chase. Batting at No. 6, Babar forged a 144-run partnership in 101 balls with Iftikhar Ahmed to lift his side after the top-order chips were down. It was an important outing for Iftikar who scored a sublime 85-ball 83, studded with four sixes and six boundaries.
Mohammad Nawaz then came up with a late cameo, scoring a 42-ball 50 but that was not enough for Pakistan to cross the line. Chinks in Pakistan’s armour were exposed with the openers failing once again and the bowlers lacking the ability to penetrate on a track that aided little swing.
Fakhar fails to fire
Fakhar Zaman padded up to open the innings after missing the first warm-up match only to last just 35 minutes. The opener began the innings on a promising note but threw it away with a wild shot, playing across the line against Maxwell, only for the top edge to be swallowed by David Warner. In the last 10 outings, Fakhar hasn’t hit a half-century and his form with the bat is a major concern for Pakistan. Imam-ul-Haq, on the other hand, is yet to set the stage on fire as the southpaw has returned quickly to the hut in both outings. Although a half-century in the recent Asia Cup Super Four stage against Bangladesh may guarantee him a spot in the starting XI, the runs need to flow to set the tone.
Stand-in captain Shadab Khan’s poor form continued as the all-rounder fell cheaply in the chase. After opening the innings in the first warm-up, Abdullah Shafique walking in at No.3, failed to maximise the opportunity.
Pakistan’s saving grace was Iftikhar, who was severe on the spinners and his knock did have an impact on Nawaz, who batted with clarity and patience down the order.
Australia’s spin headache
In a tournament where spin will play a huge role, Australia has only one specialist spinner in its ranks. Against Pakistan, Maxwell, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith rolled their arms as the team explored its spin options. Even David Warner’s leg spin was on display and the ball disappeared into the stands as Babar and Iftikhar dealt in boundaries.
Labuschagne among the wickets gives Australia some sort of cushion and the top-order batter is likely to continue his role as a batting all-rounder. Maxwell, too, will be key with the ball on turning pitches but Australia was clearly handicapped in the absence of a quality regular spinner. Adam Zampa will spearhead the spin department and Australia will bank on Labuschagne and Maxwell to play the supporting cast.
Maxwell, Green hit top gear
Maxwell donned his beast mode avatar as the Australian all-rounder blasted the Pakistani bowlers all around the park and notched a brilliant half-century, a knock that was punctuated with power and placement.
He smashed six sixes and four boundaries en route to his 77 in 71 balls and brought out his signature reverse sweeps along with a range of other strokes. He was particularly severe on Nawaz and smoked the spinner for three sixes. The ball raced through the covers and the square carpet and flew miles into the stands. Along with Maxwell, Cameron Green had a solid workout with an unbeaten half-century as Australia became the first team to cross the 350-run mark in the warm-up matches.
Another opening combination
Australia experimented with another opening pair with Warner and Marsh forging an 83-run partnership at the top. The pair did open the innings recently against India during the third ODI in Rajkot with both batters getting half-centuries and Marsh scoring a brilliant 96.
Pakistan bowling struggles
Warner welcomed Hasan Ali with a brilliant pull over the deep square leg region for a maximum and then Marsh went downtown to punish Shaheen Afridi as the Pakistan new ball bowlers continued to struggle.
The form of Haris Rauf is a matter of grave concern as the pacer leaked 97 runs in nine overs. Such was Australia’s onslaught that 71 runs came in the last 30 deliveries and that underlines how sorely the team is missing Naseem Shah.
Shaheen operated with the new ball with Hasan Ali as his partner for the second game in a row and that is an indication that Pakistan might continue with the pair in the main tournament.
Usama Mir turns heads
The only bright spot for Pakistan is the form of Usama Mir who impressed by picking two wickets and giving just 31 runs from his five overs. The leg-spinner made his ODI debut against New Zealand in January this year and has been impressive. Nawaz is technically the lead spinner along with vice-captain Shadab, but Mir might be in the playing XI when the tournament proper begins, given his ability to contain as well as pick wickets.
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