Australia saved it’s best for when it mattered, unleashing a late onslaught to stun Pakistan in the second semi-final of the T20 World Cup in Dubai and seal a place in Sunday’s final against New Zealand.
Chasing 177 to win a see-saw match, Australia required 68 off the last six overs and it seemed very much Pakistan’s game to lose on Thursday.
Matthew Wade plundered 41 off just 17 balls, hitting three sixes in a row off Shaheen Afridi, to seal a five-wicket win and a spot in Sunday’s final.
With 22 needed off the final two balls, Pakistan were still on course to reach its third T20 World Cup final.
However, the off-colour Hasan Ali dropped Wade who then launched into Afridi as Australia reached the target with an over to spare.
“It was a great game of cricket,” Australia captain Aaron Finch said as his team stayed on course to win the only major global trophy that has eluded them.
“The way Matthew Wade held his nerve was outstanding, that partnership with Marcus Stoinis [40 not out] was crucial.”
Veteran batsman David Warner also played a major role with 49 before being caught behind leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who took four wickets for 26 runs.
“The way we started in the first half, we got the total we targeted,” said Pakistan skipper Babar Azam after the game. “But we gave them too much of a chance at the end of the chase. If we had taken that catch [of Wade], it might have made the difference.”
Australia suffered an early blow when Shaheen trapped Finch leg before wicket for zero as the Pakistan-dominated crowd erupted.
The in-form Warner kept up the attack from one end with support from Mitchell Marsh.
However, spinner Shadab turned up the heat in the seventh over to get Marsh out for 28.
The leg-spinner took a wicket in each of his allocated four overs to claim the scalps of Steve Smith, for five, Warner, and Glenn Maxwell, for seven as Australia lost half their side for 96.
Warner was sent back to the dressing room when he was caught behind after hitting three fours and three sixes in his 30-ball stay, but replays later showed there was no contact off the batsman’s bat.
‘Happy to chip in’
Stoinis and Wade have steered the Australians to their second T20 World Cup semi-final and dream of a maiden title.
“When I got out there with Marcus, he was really confident we’d get them, even though I was a little unsure,” admitted Wade.
“He found the boundaries early on, and I was happy to chip in at the end.”
Put in to bat, Pakistan got off to a strong start with Rizwan (67) and skipper Azam (39) forging a 71-run partnership for the opening wicket.
In-form leg-spinner Adam Zampa finally made a breakthrough after getting Babar out, caught at long-on following his 34-ball knock laced with five fours.
Rizwan kept up the pressure and slammed Zampa for a six to become the first player to aggregate 1,000 runs in T20 internationals in a calendar year.
He survived a hit on the helmet grill by a quick bouncer from Pat Cummins as the physio came in to conduct a concussion test with the batsman smiling.
Fakhar Zaman provided the late charge for the 2009 champions with an unbeaten 55 off 32 balls.