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By Abhijit Banare
Mar 23, 2014
A career-best Twenty20 International (T20I) performance from Umar Akmal powered Pakistan to a strong total of 191 for five against Australia in the ICC World T20 2014 match at Dhaka on Sunday. Umar scored a stroke-filled 94 from 54 deliveries and shared a 96-run third wicket stand with brother Kamran.
It was an authoritative performance from Umar hammering the inconsistent Aussie bowlers. Often referred as their weak point, the Pakistan batting fired with handy contribution from Kamran and Shahid Afridi.
It was evident before the match that Australia were a stronger team on paper than Pakistan. The only trick which was discussed by both sides is Australia’s possible susceptibility against spin. And on expected lines, Mohammad Hafeez opted to bring in left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar in place of Junaid Khan. But it was Pakistan’s test to face the Aussie pacers as they lost the toss and were put into bat. This was the same Dhaka wicket on which Pakistan had played their last match against arch-rivals. It had some bounce in it and the pacers were always going to pose some challenge.
Ahmed Shehzad started off brilliantly with a half cut, half punch shot past point on the first ball of the match for four. Shehzad has been guilty of playing far too many strokes early on. And he didn’t disappoint Australia. He miscued a pull shot against Doug Bollinger to give a regulation catch to the bowler. Having put themselves on the backfoot early on, skipper Mohammad Hafeez targeted he short boundaries on his leg-side towards mid-on to hit two boundaries. But the cameo ended when he played on against Shane Watson scoring 13 from 10.
Pakistan’s average powerplay scores in T20s have been comparatively less than other teams. Today, they managed 36 losing two wickets — one short of their average score of 37. But with a talented Umar batting along with elder brother Kamran, Pakistan still had the firepower to surge ahead. One of the features of the Akmal brothers is their unpredictability. Thankfully for the team, their risks paid off and Umar in particular showed his aggressive intent from the first ball.
Skipper Bailey had deliberately set a leg-side field to force Umar to play the pull shot and Umar obliged by doing the same and picked a couple with a mistimed shot. Umar was in no mood to relent as he kept attacking. He targeted Shane Watson in particular smashing a boundary and then kept Brad Hogg at bay as well. The left-arm chinaman bowler had a poor day while fielding as well.
Australia were unusually sloppy in the field which allowed the opposition to get away. They could have had Umar in the eighth over itself when he clobbered a short ball from Nathan Coulter-Nile over midwicket but Hogg failed to sight the ball properly and spilled the catch. He was dropped again in the 10th over off a no-ball and added to Australia’s frustration by hammering a huge six off the free-hit. The elder Akmal was content in playing second fiddle while his brother dominated all through.
Some length balls and wayward deliveries allowed Umar to keep up his strike rate. With his main bowlers leaking runs, Bailey brought in Finch He raced up to his half-century in just 28 deliveries. In a matter of 30 minutes, Pakistan were back from behind to dictating the proceedings.
Kamran was dismissed for 31 trying to up the ante soon after and Sohaib Maqsood too departed playing a rusty innings of five. But Umar continued to punish the Aussies as Afridi too joined in to clobber the bowlers. Umar surpassed his previous career-best T20I score of 61 and was in sublime touch for few more. A century was in the offing for him but he was dismissed for 94 caught in the deep by Glenn Maxwell. His 54-ball innings icluded nine boundaries and four sixes.
Afridi added a few more in the end to take them past 190.
This is a perfect challenge for Australia who need to counter the spin factor with their powerpacked batting lineup. With four spinners in the team, it’s an interesting challenge set up for the second half. They forced New Zealand to chase around 200 in the warm-up match and it’s time for them to match up now.
Pakistan 191 for 5 in 20 overs (Kamran Akmal 31, Umar Akmal 94; Nathan Coulter-Nile 2 for 36) vs Australia.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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