Sharjah: Australia got off to a winning start through an exciting four-wicket win over Pakistan in the first one-day match of the Cool & Cool Cup three match series at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
It was a hard fought win as Australia, after restricting Pakistan to 198 runs in 45.1 overs, slipped down to 67 for 4 in 18 overs but recovered to win with ten balls to spare.
The architects of Australia win were skipper Michael Clarke, who top scored with 66 runs off 96 balls with five boundaries, George Bailey who stood like a rock to score an unbeaten 57 runs off 88 balls with one boundary and a six and Michael Starc, who bagged five wickets for 42 runs.
Earlier, Pakistan won the toss but their top order batsmen surrendered easily to the accurate Australian pace attack. In the first ten overs they lost their first three batsmen for just 40 runs.
James Pattinson was the first to strike. He had Mohammad Hafeez, who hit him uppishly straight into the hands of David Hussey in the covers for 4.
Pattinson struck with the first ball of the seventh over too. He forced Azhar Ali mistime his shot into the hands of Mitchell Johnson at mid on for 5. To make matters worse for Pakistan, Mitchell Starc had Nasir Jamshed, who was shaping well, fall to a delivery that gained extra bounce. Jamshed, trying to fend the ball resulted in wicketkeeper Matthew Wade leap to his left and take the catch for 23.
Skipper Misbah Ul Haq and Asad Shafiq began the damage control, keeping their heads down. This tempted Clarke to introduce himself and David Hussey for a double spin attack. Shafiq began to open out and even hit spinner Glenn Maxwell for a six over deep mid wicket. The pair put on 59 runs for the fourth wicket in 14.5 overs when Daniel Christian provided the breakthrough by forcing Haq (26) edge onto his stumps.
Shafiq took charge and accelerated the run rate with Umar Akmal. Hitting Christian over mid wicket for a six, Akmal announced that he has settled down. Shafiq too stepped out and hit Maxwell over long on for a six. He also reached his seventh half century.
Six runs later, Shafiq went for a drive taking his eyes off the ball off Starc and got clean bowled. It ended his 61 runs partnership for the fifth wicket in 10.5 overs with Akmal. Shafiq’s knock of 56 came off 77 balls with two fours and two sixers.
Kamran Akmal joined his brother but lasted only 14 balls to score four runs. Shahid Afridi, who was cheered all the way to the crease by the fans, fell for a duck, playing Starc into the hands of Clarke at slip to the first ball he faced.
By the 40th over, Pakistan were 175 for 7, raising doubts on whether their score will go past the 200 run-mark. Starc also picked the prize wicket of Umar Akmal forcing him to loft into the hands of George Bailey for 52. Retuning with a figures of 5 for 42, Starc restricted Pakistan to 198 runs in 45.1 overs.
Chasing the target, Australian opener David Warner fell at the score on 13, going for a slog at a well tossed up delivery from Mohammad Hafeez, missed the line and got clean bowled for 5. Clarke joined Wade and took the score to 42 when skipper Misbah Ul Haq introduced Afridi for the 11th over. With the last ball of his very first over, he struck by forcing Wade to go for a slog, top edge and offer Haq an easy catch.
Haq introduced Saeed Ajmal in the 16th over and he struck with the very first ball to trap Michael Hussey leg before for 5. He bowled a brilliant first over beating both Clarke and David Hussey with his doosra. Hussey survived seven balls before he edged Ajmal to Haq at slip. With the score board reading 67 for 4 in 18 overs, the Pakistan total suddenly looked formidable.
Clarke reached his half century. At the half way stage Australia still needed 111 runs with six wickets in hand.
At the score on 121 for 5, Hafeez ended Clarke’s fight knock trapping him leg before for 66 runs and that ended the 54 runs partnership for the fifth wicket.
Australia refused to give up with Maxwell and Bailey putting on 63 runs for the sixth wicket. Bailey fell leg before attempting a reverse sweep to Ajmal when Australia still needed 15 runs for a victory. Bailey completed his half century and ensured his team’s victory with ten balls to spare. It was Australia’s first win over Pakistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.