Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman proved his big-match credentials once again as his blistering 91 helped his side clinch the tri-series tournament in Zimbabwe on Sunday (July 8). Zaman, who rose to prominence with a scintillating match-winning century over arch-rivals India in the Champions Trophy final 12 months ago, delivered again, making his form count in the triangular tournament by sending the Australian bowlers on a leather hunt in the final.
Zaman saw debutant Sahibzada Farhan and Hussain Talat depart in the opening over of the 184 chase to the part-time offspin of Glenn Maxwell, but the wickets didn’t deter his shot-making intentions. Sarfraz Khan negated the Maxwell effect by taking him to the cleaners in the third over that fetched 21 runs, but his run out just before the end of the powerplay put Pakistan on the backfoot again.
With the required run rate climbing following a maiden over to Shoaib Malik, Zaman remained unflustered and hammered Marcus Stoinis over long on for a six and followed it up with a four. At the halfway stage, Pakistan had reached 79 for no further loss of wickets but the accelerator had to be stepped on during the second half of the innings. Zaman did exactly that as he disrupted Jack Wildermuth’s length with a few boundaries that forced the young bowler to bowl four wides in the over.
Ashton Agar’s introduction changed nothing as Zaman continued the assault to bring up his fifty with another six. He took a liking to the straight boundaries by targetting them on more than one occasion. Aaron Finch’s decision to shuffle his bowlers did nothing to disrupt Zaman’s momentum as the game totally swung Pakistan’s way. The left-hander finally fell nine short of his century but Malik’s calm head guided Pakistan past the finishing line.
Earlier in the day, Australia dropped the out-of-form Nic Maddinson to bring back D’Arcy Short, who slotted into the opener’s slot alongside Finch. Short, who has had a wretched run in the tournament, started off in positive fashion with two fours off the first three balls before getting bogged down by a few dot balls. Pakistan also failed to seize the early initiative when both Finch and Short were dropped off consecutive deliveries.
Even though they didn’t bring on the spinners early on to trouble Short, Pakistan had a clear cut plan against Short as their pacers denied him room to free his arms. Australia had scratched their way to 29 off the first four overs before finally turning it on to finish with 54 in the powerplay. The duo rode on luck as well to fetch some streaky boundaries with Short in particular constantly beating the short third-man.
Shadab Khan finally made the vital breakthrough as Finch perished while trying to hit a short delivery over cover. Having already conceded a couple of sixes to the Australian skipper, the legspinner fought back at the right time as Maxwell became his second victim soon after Finch’s departure. By this time, the onus was on the half-centurion Short to carry the momentum forward and he duly obliged by hammering Hasan Ali for a couple of sixes to round off the 15th over.
With Stoinis pulling Amir for another six to begin the 16th over, the signs were ominous for Pakistan. But they staged another comeback in the innings as both Stoinis and Short were dismissed in the span of five deliveries. Travis Head threatened briefly with a flurry of boundaries but wickets kept tumbling at the other end including three off the last seven deliveries that helped Pakistan concede at least 10-15 runs lesser than originally anticipated, which eventually proved to be the difference maker.
Brief scores: Australia 183/8 in 20 overs (D’Arcy Short 76, Aaron Finch 47; Mohammad Amir 3-33, Shadab Khan 2-38) lost to Pakistan 187/4 in 19.2 overs (Fakhar Zaman 91, Shoaib Malik 43*; Glenn Maxwell 2-35) by six wickets
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