Australia 163 for 7 (Finch 55, Shaheen 2-21) beat Pakistan 162 for 8 (Babar 66, Ellis 4-28) by three wickets
But when Shaheen Afridi goes for three boundaries in a wicketless first over in a T20, perhaps it isn’t your day. Australia got off to a flyer thanks to Travis Head at the start and Josh Inglis a little later. They targeted Hasan Ali, who it’s apparent to everyone but Pakistan’s selectors would benefit from a break. The fast bowler was smashed around for 30 in three as Australia brought the asking rate down sharply in the early overs.
A lovely start from Qadir with the ball brought Pakistan back into the contest, his two quick wickets raising hopes of a collapse. Shaheen, too, removed two in an over at the death, threatening to blast out the lower order, but by then, too much damage had been done. Australia needed four off the final over, and when Haris Rauf strayed down the leg side, one ball was all it took Ben McDermott to get them there.
Doom post the Powerplay
Pakistan began the innings cautiously, with just 22 runs in the first three overs, but had managed to correct the rate by the time the fielding restrictions were lifted. Then it happened. A couple of tight overs from Zampa, and a dramatic dual-wicket opening over from Green rocked Pakistan, and they never quite managed to recover.
Babar, so sumptuous in the Powerplay, appeared to lose his timing altogether, scoring just 23 off 19 balls across the rest of his innings before holing out to deep extra cover off Zampa once more. Between the seventh and 15th overs, Pakistan managed just 56 in 54 balls, despite losing just three wickets by that stage of the game. Questions around the pacing of the innings, and whether they picked the personnel to control it to their satisfaction, will likely need addressing.
Ellis, Green star on debut
Not many cricketers kickstart a T20I career by dismissing Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman in their first over, but that was precisely how Green’s began. After Pakistan were speeding along in the Powerplay, Green started with a tight first three balls before knocking back Rizwan’s off peg, while a slice of fortune saw him remove Zaman with a juicy full toss first up. It was no less than he deserved for his bowling performance all evening, with his wily variations of pace and line keeping Pakistan honest, and ensuring he was the only bowler from either side who went at less than a run-a-ball.
Ellis took a more circuitous route to success, however. With Finch ringing the changes early on – the first four overs were all bowled by different people – Ellis’ first saw Babar stroke him for three successive fours to get Pakistan off and running. When he returned in the second half of the innings, however, he got Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali early, before a scintillating 19th over saw him take two wickets and concede just two runs. The pair’s combined figures read 7-0-44-6; they might not register better figures playing together throughout their careers.
Finch works his way out of his rut
If Finch hadn’t captained Australia to a maiden World T20I title fewer than five months ago, the criticism coming his way would have been coruscating. It hasn’t exactly been mild either way, after just two double-digit scores in his last eight T20I innings. The ODI series that preceded this game was especially deleterious to his prospects, with Finch looking a shadow of the player he has been for much of his career.
Against that backdrop, he couldn’t have asked for a better game. His chopping and changing of the bowlers saw Pakistan restricted to a below-par total, and Head and Inglis’ truculence with the bat allowed him to take a back seat at the other end. He played his way into form, trying out his footwork, routinely skipping down his crease as he searched and scratched his way to a a 37-ball fifty. When the wickets fell at the other end, his reassuring presence meant Australia always looked ahead of the game, and before long. He wouldn’t get to hit the winning runs, holing out to square leg as he went for the glory six, but Australia had got over the line, and their captain had taken them there.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000