Matthew Wade
Australia’s Matthew Wade plays a shot during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket semifinal against Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on November 11, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Matthew Wade is an unlikely hero for Australia. When talk turns to matchwinners in the Aussie ranks, the names of David Warner, Aaron, Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis crop up. But never Wade. That makes him an unlikely hero.

Going into the 19th over, the T20 World Cup semifinal was anybody’s game. Australia needed 22 runs from 12 balls when Pakistan skipper Babar Azam summoned his best bowler. The bowler who struck in the first over to send back Australian skipper Aaron Finch. Shaheen Shah Afridi is a bowler with tremendous pace and variations. Pakistan’s fortunes hinged on this over.

Wade beat cancer as a teenager

Wade had a chat with his partner Marcus Stoinis before slamming three sixes, including two scoops over the fine-leg fence. Match over. A match, where fortunes swung back and forth, was settled with three courageous shots. That’s batting bravery at its finest.

Bravery isn’t new to Wade. For he has faced adversity all his life. At 16, he fought off testicular cancer with chemotherapy. Three years later, when his career seemed to stall, the Tasmanian moved to Victoria to enhance his first-class cricket prospects. Wade later went on to lead Victoria to a hat-trick of Sheffield Shield titles from 2015.

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Yet, a place in the Australian side wasn’t a certainty. So Wade transformed from a wicketkeeper into a specialist batsman. At 33, Wade’s best years were behind him. But on Thursday at the Dubai International Stadium, he showed that none of his shot-making skills had diminished. More importantly, he displayed nerves of steel when Australia were at risk of losing.

To finish the game with three sixes requires exceptional talent. Wade was always a special talent. It took a high-pressure situation for his talent to bloom. The semifinal needed a hero. And Wade turned up.