Hosts Australia gained a vital 1-0 lead in the three-match series against Pakistan after they crushed the visitors by seven wickets in the second T20I in Canberra.
The no-result in the series opener meant that there was plenty at stake in Canberra, and it was the Aussies who reigned in the end with what was their sixth win in as many completed T20I clashes.
Batting first, Pakistan huffed and puffed their way towards a total of 150-6, but that proved to be no match for the marauding Australians, who notched up the target with nine deliveries to spare.
After what was another excellent showing by Aaron Finch and his men, we look at the key talking points from the Manuka Oval.
Fakhar’s misery continues
That Pakistan opted to retain the same playing XI from the Sydney clash was a surprise, considering the form, or lack of it, of some of their players. Fakhar Zaman had been the primary culprit in that regard with the opening batsman struggling to buy a run in T20Is for almost a year and counting.
Having bagged two golden ducks in his last two outings, the pressure was truly on the left-hander on Tuesday when he opened the batting alongside skipper Babar Azam. While he did manage to avoid a hat-trick of ducks, it didn’t really get any better for Fakhar who eventually fell for just two runs.
After his latest failure, the Pakistan opener has now compiled a paltry 50 runs in eight T20I innings this year. His place was already under threat coming into the series, and with his average for 2019 now standing at a miserable 6.30, it could be curtains soon for Fakhar Zaman in the 20-over format.
Captain Babar left to carry the torch again as Pak top-order fails
Babar Azam is just in a different league compared to the rest of the Pakistan batting. Much like Sachin in the early-mid 90s & Lara throughout his career. One man, different class, way above the rest. #AUSvPAK— Raunak Kapoor (@RaunakRK) November 5, 2019
While Fakhar looked completely out of sorts once again, the rest of the Pakistan top-order bar Babar didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory either. Just like he had done in the first T20, Haris Sohail followed Fakhar immediately to the pavilion after falling in exactly the same fashion as he had done in Sydney.
At the other end, Babar looked in supreme touch from the word go, with the right-hander crunching some sumptuous boundaries to get off to an electric start. However, he lacked support from the other batsmen with Mohammad Rizwan and Asif Ali falling cheaply as well.
Babar’s excellent innings was ended by an equally stellar direct-hit from the deep by David Warner, but not before the Pakistan man had brought up yet another T20I fifty. It was his 12th half-century in only his 35th innings in the format and it means he has now registered fifties in both his appearances as Pakistan captain.
Superb Iftikhar provides Pakistan with the late impetus
Despite Babar’s brilliance, the visitors were still in danger of ending up with an under-par score before all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed provided the late fireworks.
Making only his fifth T20I appearance, the right-hander stepped on the accelerator the very moment he arrived at the crease. He was particularly in punishing mood against Kane Richardson, with his long levers helping fetch some desperately-needed boundaries for Pakistan.
Iftikhar’s maiden T20I half-century came off just 29 deliveries with the 29-year-old thumping three sixes and five boundaries overall in his unbeaten knock of 62. It was his explosive batting in the last five overs of the Pakistan innings that helped the visitors ultimately breach the 150-run mark.
Pakistan have been crying out for a big-hitter lower down the order, and Iftikhar’s sublime strokeplay on the day might have just provided the answer.
Warner finally dismissed but no way past super Smith
Defending a total of 150, Pakistan did manage to do what no other team has done in the last 21 months – dismiss David Warner in a T20I. The Australian opener has racked up a world record 239 runs since his last dismissal, with the suspension in between, and he was looking in ominous form on Tuesday after racing away to 20.
That was before Mohammad Amir castled his stumps to give Pakistan a ray of hope. Soon after, Mohammad Irfan sent back Aaron Finch to give the visitors another opening, however, they immediately ran into a Steve Smith-shaped wall.
Having returned to the T20I fold for Australia after a gap of three years, the Test stalwart registered his second fifty in three innings with a free-flowing knock littered with boundaries.
Reaching his landmark in 36 deliveries, Smith had Australia in total control in the chase with his unorthodox shot-making across the oval. Even though Ashton Turner was struggling to put bat to ball at the other end, Smith was in imperious mode as he made the 151-run chase look like a walk in the park in the end.
In an era when T20 outfits are being packed with raw power, Smith showed the value of his class touch with a match-winning unbeaten knock of 80 (51).
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