Australia's Aaron Finch
Australia's white ball captain Aaron Finch feels winning the powerplay battle against Pakistan bowlers, especially the left-arm pace of Shaheen Afridi, holds key to the match. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Australia, whose reputation as winners of a record number of 50-overs World Cup titles (five) tends to make them one of the automatic favourites for any ICC white ball event, find themselves in a somewhat unusual position in the World T20 this year. They run into Pakistan, the in-form team with an all-win record, as the unfancied one in the second semi-final on Thursday but with hope in their hearts because of their history in the knockout stages.

It was an undercooked Aaron Finch’s team which turned up in the UAE last month - having lost all the five bi-lateral T20 series they played this year - including a 4-1 whipping at the hands of Bangladesh away from home. The top order batting looked fragile with David Warner in a woeful form, Finch not being his usual self while the middle order did not look solid enough - with bowling as their only area of strength.

After scraping through their opener against South Africa, the Australians have evolved as a team during the tournament as the two decorated openers spent more time in the middle, allrounder Mitchell Marsh provided them with a viable option as an aggressive number three with Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis forming the middle order. An interesting combination - which is banking a lot on their trio of allrounders and the pace bowling trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in a tournament dominated by slow bowlers.


Leg spinner Adam Zampa has led their spin attack with some assistance from the wickets and with 11 scalps from five matches, is the joint-leading wicket-taker of the Super 12 stage of the tournament.

Explaining their rationale of going into the matches with seven batsmen and four specialist bowlers, Finch admitted that they could afford such a flexibility in selection of their playing XI as their three allrounders have been sharing the responsibility of the fifth bowler so far.

Lauding Marsh’s allround contribution in their crucial game against West Indies, Finch said: ‘‘His ability to bat No.3 is crucial while he bowled a few good overs against the West Indies. He has been a huge asset for the team.’’

Together with Warner, Finch may have often stayed under the radar but records say that he is only 25 runs short of the 10,000-run mark in all T20 Internationals. Asked about the impending milestone, Finch said: ‘‘It will be nice to tick it off but I don’t play cricket for personal goals. I would rather score a duck and let the team win rather than score a 100 and see the team lose.’’

The Australian captain was, however, candid enough to admit their chances in they key game may well rest on their ability to take on the left-arm paceman Shaheen Afridi. The 21-year-old’s three-wicket haul set up a thumping 10-wicket rout of India in the group phase, and Pakistan have not looked back.

“The powerplay definitely holds the key,” Finch said, before adding: “Shaheen has been in really good form for Pakistan. So that’s going to be a crucial battle, no doubt.”

Catch the match

Second semi-final

Pakistan vs Australia

Dubai International Stadium

Match starts at 6 pm