50 overs Pakistan 244 for 7 (Hafeez 78, Jamshed 48, Johnson 2-33) v Australia
Pakistan’s best opening stand against Australia in 27 years set the platform for a total of 244 for 7 in Sharjah and gave the hosts a strong chance of winning their first series over the same opponents in a decade. Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshedadded 129 before a handful of middle order cameos lifted the tally in the final overs of an innings that stretched for more than four hours in considerable heat.
Hafeez’s half century was his first against Australia, its highlight a stinging straight six off James Pattinson. Jamshed’s innings was more circumspect than he managed in game two, but the ideal display to support Hafeez.
Their stand should have allowed Pakistan to soar well past 250, but Australia’s bowlers stuck admirably to their task to limit the rest. It was Mitchell Johnson who started the salvage operation, claiming two wickets while keeping his economy rate down, and thus allowing Mitchell Starc to strike four times to continue his decent form.
Michael Clarke was Australia’s most effective spinner by a distance, and it was arguable that he should have bowled more than two overs while Glenn Maxwell and David Hussey shared an ineffective nine. Pakistan have picked no fewer than four spinners for the match, recalling Shahid Afridi after a back complaint.
Bolstered by happy memories of game one when they had topped and tailed the Pakistan innings, Pattinson and Starc took the new ball with some intent. Starc looked initially short of rhythm and comfort having shrugged off a side/chest complaint to take part, but Australia’s opening duo made Jamshed and Hafeez work hard to survive the early overs.
Both batsmen top edged attempted hook shots and were fortunate to see their respective strokes fall safely. Nonetheless, the shots signalled their ambition, even as a sluggish pitch, slow outfield and tidy Australian fielding made scoring difficult.
Gradually, Hafeez and Jamshed wrested the initiative, seeing off a useful spell by Johnson and profiting more from the others. The allrounder Dan Christian shelled a difficult return catch when Hafeez was 26, but it was the only hint of a chance offered by the openers as they strode to Pakistan’s first century opening stand against Australia in ODIs since 1985.
Jamshed’s innings was a worthy follow-up to his match-shaping innings in Abu Dhabi, while Hafeez was finally showing the Australians the worth of his batting after some years of underachievement. The six off Pattinson was a particularly compelling reminder.
Australia were so desperate for a wicket that Clarke sacrificed his one referral to a speculative appeal for a legside catch off Jamshed. The stratagem was indirectly helpful in securing the breakthrough, distracting Jamshed enough for Johnson to have him touching a bouncer behind in the same over.
Afridi was promoted in the order to make a flash-in-pan seven, and Hafeez’s innings was ended when Clarke struck him in front while attempting to sweep. Asad Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali and Abdur Rehman did not go beyond their starts, keeping Australia in the contest though the chase will be a challenging one.
A win for Pakistan would hand them a first ODI series over Australia since a victory in Australia in 2002.Comments: