Australia stays on course, Pakistan bows out

Australia's win ensured that its last group match against India on Sunday would be a virtual quarterfinal. It also confirmed Pakistan's exit from the tournament.

Shahid Afridi walks back after being dismissed for 14.   -  AP

One could see the familiar jubilation among the Australians after their purposeful batting and a well-planned bowling carried them to a 21-run victory over a directionless Pakistan in the World T20 at the PCA Stadium here on Friday. The victory suggested that the Aussies might be peaking at the right time.

Australia's win ensured that its last group match against India here on Sunday would be a virtual quarterfinal. It also confirmed Pakistan's exit from the tournament.

Starting from the toss, everything fell in place for Steve Smith and his men. The unbroken 74-run stand between Smith (61 not out) and Shane Watson (44 not out) helped Australia post a big total of 193 for four. Then backed by wrecker-in-chief James Faulkner's five-for — the first of the tournament — Australia restricted Pakistan to 172 for eight, much to the disappointment of Shahid Afridi.

The high point of Australia's batting was its ability to fight back. Usman Khawaja continued with his brilliant touch to score a rapid-fire 21 and seize the initial momentum.

Australia was then pegged back by Wahab Riaz's two wickets off successive overs. Khawaja missed an accurate yorker while trying to make room for his shot, while danger man David Warner was beaten by the Pakistani's pace.

> Full scoreboard and ball-by-ball details

Left-arm spinner Imad Wasim breached Finch's defence in the eighth over. Imad and Shahid Afridi bowled in tandem with the hope of stifling the Australians. However, a composed Steve Smith and the explosive Glenn Maxwell (30) had a better plan. Smith preferred to rotate the strike and Maxwell gave him good support. The pair forged a timely 62-run partnership off 38 balls to set the stage for a bigger onslaught. Maxwell, who reached the fence four times, including a four and a six off a Mohammad Sami over, was snared by Ahmed Shehzad at long-on off Imad.

Thereafter, it was 40 minutes of pure entertainment from the two batting stalwarts, Smith and Watson.

Smith ended a string of poor performances against Pakistan by scoring a 43-ball 61, his second half-century in the shortest version. Known for his strong onside game, the Australian captain hammered six of his seven fours through the off-side and made the Pakistan attack look ordinary. Smith, shuffling across beyond his off-stump in a Riaz over, only highlighted the Aussie's control over the situation.

Read: >The story of the Pakistan faithful

At the other end, the gigantic Watson clobbered the Pakistan pacers on both sides in his breezy 21-ball unbeaten 44 (four fours and three sixes). The Smith-Watson stand nearly shut Pakistan out of the contest.

In reply, Pakistan again suffered due to its poor endgame in a big run-chase. Following Sharjeel Khan's early blitz (30 off 23 balls), it was a familiar script heading towards disaster amidst half-hearted efforts from Khalid Latif (46 off 41), Umar Akmal (32 off 20) and Shoaib Malik (40 off 20).

> Steve Smith: It all came together

A master of the back-of-the-hand slower ball, Faulkner foxed the Pakistani batsmen at will and claimed two wickets each in his last two overs while achieving a rare feat and a much-needed win for Australia.

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