Mirpur was set alight with power hitting yesterday as Australia, after Glenn Maxwell astonished all present with a flurry of sixes, finished 16 runs short of Pakistan's 191 in their Group 2 match of the World Twenty20 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
In the second match of the day at the same venue, India recorded yet another comprehensive victory, this time against holders West Indies by seven wickets. After the Caribbean side crawled to a subdued 129 for 7, the Indians also made heavy weather of the easy chase, scoring 130 for three in 19.4 overs.
After Pakistan newcomer Zulfiquar Babar took two wickets in the first over, Maxwell and Aaron Finch's 118-run partnership in 10.4 overs put Australia in the driver's seat. But Maxwell's wicket, caught at deep midwicket off Shahid Afridi for a 33-ball 74 studded with seven fours and six sixes, slowed the run flow. Needing a manageable 46 off the last five overs, Australia found Pakistan's trio of Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul too hot to handle. Afridi bowled George Bailey off the first ball of the 16th over, Brad Hodge followed in the next over to a fantastic catch at deep point by Ajmal, who in the next over ended hopes for Australia by yorking Finch. Bilawal Bhatti, who went for 30 in his first over, was brought back for the last with Australia needing 23 and conceded only six while taking the remaining three Australian wickets.
Australia got off to a bad start when David Warner was bowled by Babar in the second of the innings. Shane Watson was the second casualty of the over, nicking the last ball to wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal. But if it seemed that Pakistan's army of spinners would thwart Australia, Maxwell dismissed the notion emphatically. He started with two fours in Babar's second over, and then escalated to two sixes in the next over by Mohammad Hafeez. Even Ajmal was not spared, Finch hitting him for a four and a six in his first over. But it was Bhatti's pace that was punished the most in the eighth over, with Maxwell hitting two fours and two sixes to add to Finch's boundary off the first ball. The second six took Maxwell to the fourth-fastest T20I fifty, off 18 balls. At the end of the over, which included a beamer that went for four, Australia were in pole position needing 90 from 12, but Maxwell's wicket in the 12th over changed the complexion of the match.
Earlier, it was the story of the precociously talented Umar Akmal taking the game by the scruff of the neck after Pakistan were asked to bat. In the beginning however it seemed that Pakistan were heading for a modest score as they reached just 36 for the loss of Ahmed Shehzad -- who skied a pull off Doug Bollinger -- and Mohammad Hafeez, who dragged a Watson delivery onto his stumps.
But the momentum changed when Umar Akmal, who had raced to 22 while brother Kamran seemed to be struggling at the other end, was dropped at the square leg fence by Brad Hogg off Nathan Coulter-Nile in the eighth over.
The brothers put together a 96-run third-wicket partnership, in which Kamran's contribution was a run-a-ball 31. Surprisingly Australia's fielding was shoddy, with Kamran being dropped off a no-ball in the tenth over. The resulting free-hit was dispatched into the second tier behind the midwicket fence by Umar. The younger Akmal was in sublime form, hitting all around the ground and punishing anything that was bowled at his legs or too wide outside off. His fours sixes were all over midwicket.
Umar reached his fifty off 28 balls with a huge six in the 12th over which yielded 18 runs -- the highest scoring over for Pakistan. After Kamran holed out to deep point, Sohaib Maqsood came and went, which set the stage for Afridi. Although Afridi did his part with an 11-ball 20, the focus was on Umar as he neared a deserved hundred, but it was not to be as he finally failed to clear the rope in the last over and fell for a glittering 54-ball 94.