ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2019
David Warner’s last three ODI scores against Pakistan read: 130, 179 & 107 today © AFP
Rain finally yielded, an innings was completed and Pakistan’s volatile cricket persisted. This time, it was with the ball and on the field that Pakistan displayed their fickle brand of cricket. Several catches were dropped and the bowling lacked discipline – which Australia were able to capitalise on for the majority of their innings, with David Warner (107) and Aaron Finch (82) providing the platform. But Pakistan did well towards the end of the innings, riding on Mohammad Amir’s five-wicket haul for damage control as they limited Australia to 307.
The Amir-Shaheen Afridi opening combination, after Pakistan opted to bowl on a greenish Taunton wicket, started on a promising note as both left-arm pacers went past the outside edge a few times and had the batsmen on their toes. The difference, however, was that Amir was consistent with his line and lengths and sneaked in a couple of maidens whereas Afridi wasn’t and he paid for his errors by being pulled several times to the boundary. Despite Amir’s tidy bowling, Afridi conceding 24 runs in two overs coupled with the openers also taking a liking to Hassan Ali meant that Australia managed to get off to a solid start.
To make matters worse, when Wahab Riaz managed to find the outside edge of Finch, Asif Ali at first slip goofed up to give the Australia captain a reprieve. Plenty of salt was rubbed on to Pakistan’s wound from thereon. Afridi continued to leak boundaries while disappointment continued for Riaz as a review turned out to be umpire’s call in favour of Finch. With Sarfaraz Ahmed also missing a sharp chance, denying Mohammad Hafeez a wicket in his first over, Finch continued to ride his luck to go past fifty and help raise the first century stand for the opening wicket against Pakistan in a World Cup game since 1996.
Put down when he was on 26 and later on 44, Finch made Pakistan pay for their misses as he dealt in sixes off Hafeez, who conceded 32 off three overs before being removed from the attack. But Hafeez did exact his revenge, albeit as a fielder, when Finch miscued one off Amir. At the other end, Warner was again flying below the radar. Troubled a few times by the seamers and not receiving as much strike as his opening partner, the southpaw registered a 51-ball half-century for his third fifty-plus score in four matches. Having watched a shocking review from Pakistan and seeing the ball go past him several times when Amir was in the middle of a lively spell, Warner didn’t let the situation get the better of him as he took toll of the bowlers from the other end, with Hassan and Shoaib Malik feeling the brunt of his blade.
Meanwhile, Hafeez was brought back into the attack and he accounted for Steven Smith who fell in his attempt to loft the spinner. Australia then adapted the horses for courses policy, similar to what India did against them when they promoted Hardik Pandya up the order, by sending Glenn Maxwell at No. 4. But the move didn’t yield optimum result as the batsman lasted for only 10 deliveries in which he managed two fours and a six off Hafeez before being cleaned up by Afridi.
A fortuitous edge that went between ‘keeper and first slip, helping Warner to his 15th ODI ton, and a simple catch being put down by Asif Ali off Riaz again, summed up the contrasting day for the batsman and bowler in question. But Pakistan being Pakistan, they came up with a renewed effort in the death by picking up quick wickets, with Amir doing the bulk of the damage, while there was also some light at the end of a luckless tunnel for Riaz. Going strong at 223 for 2 at one stage, Amir’s five-wicket haul scripted Pakistan’s fine comeback with the ball as Australia lost eight wickets for the addition of only 84 runs.