Dubai: It’s not often that Matthew Wade, the Australian wicketkeeper-batsman, gets a chance to play a hero for his country. However, destiny had ordained that for once, the 33-year-old Tasmanian would play the saviour for them on Thursday night and script a win which embodies the Australian spirit as we know it.
It must have been a shattering defeat for Pakistan, who uncannily like England, became the second hot favourites to be pipped at the post in back-to-back semi-finals. They had the match under control for most part of it – first dominating it with the bat and then with the ball – till Shaheen Afridi turned the villain after an outstanding tournament when he conceded three sixes in the penultimate over to Wade.
Flying under the radar
A final match-up between the two trans-Tasman rivals, Australia and New Zealand, was unthinkable when the tournament got underway nearly a month ago. It’s a fact that unlike the previous occasions, Australia were flying under the radar in this tournament – and there were enough cricketing reasons to back it.
The team arrived in the UAE on the back of failing to win a single of the five bi-lateral series they played this year, including a 4-1 rout at the hands of Bangladesh on turning tracks of Dhaka. They looked a bit undercooked as they just about scraped home against South Africa in their opener, but gradually showed signs of improvement as the tournament wore on.
Wade, who filled in as skipper during that Bangladesh tour, apparently had one message for his teammates – to be ‘brave.’ The gutsy customer, who had often come under criticism for his underwhelming performances with the bat in Tests over the years, showed he was not only brave – but also kept the faith on himself and teammate Marcus Stoinis when Glenn Maxwell left in the 13th over.
The target of 177 was a steep one – and despite the wicket looking a belter – there were still 81 runs to get with the so-called batting mainstays in David Warner, skipper Aaron Finch, Steve Smith and Maxwell back in the hut. Warner, who scored a defiant 49 after losing skipper Aaron Finch in the first over, was in fact guilty of a momentary brain fade when he did not ask for the review of his dismissal when he went for an expansive drive against Shadab Khan and was caught behind. The TV replays, however, looked a bit inconclusive if the former Australian vice-captain had actually got a nick.
The sixth wicket pair of Wade and Stoinis, the latter being a journeyman in franchise leagues all over the world, perhaps decided to take the cue from New Zealand’s matchwinner Daryl Mitchell on Wednesday. The idea was to take the match as deep as possible and when they needed 20 runs off the last two overs, Australia were rewarded with a huge slice of luck when paceman Hassan Ali floored a Wade offering in deep mid-wicket.
Afridi, who set the keynote for Pakistan’s rousing campaign in the tournament with a scorching spell against India, struck again in the big game when he caught Finch in front of the wicket in day’s first over again. After a miserly 13 runs off his first three overs, skipper Babar AzommentCam had handed over the ball to his best weapon for the 19th over – deemed as the most crucial one in this format.
This is when Wade rose to the occasion, clobbering three sixes to finish it off. The never-say-die spirit of the Aussies was once again to the fore!