CHENNAI: Shaheen Shah Afridi has the ball. It’s the 19th over of the Australia innings. Matthew Wade is the man tasked with taking his team to the final, their first T20 World Cup final since 2010.
The wicket-keeper, who is largely in the team because he is seen ‘as a hard man’, has had a life. Hasan Ali failed to collect an offering at mid-wicket off the third ball of the 19th over.
The equation is 18 from 9 balls. Afridi’s next ball is zooming into Wade’s stumps. It clocks 148kmph. Wade moves outside the off-stump before bringing his bat down.
It has to be done at the precise moment otherwise he will lose his s tumps or worse, endanger his physical health.
It’s a perfect connect ion and the ball sai l s ove r short fine leg for a six. Twelve from eight. Shaheen’s calm ‘I got this’ act is slightly unravelling.
For the first time in the tournament, Pakistan’s veneer of invincibility is on the edge.
It’s a full cutter but it’s in Wade’s wheel house and he swings for the hills. It’s another perfect connection and the ball sails over long leg. Six from seven.
Wade and Marcus Stoinis share a laugh. They know this is done. Pakistan know this is done. Shaheen knows this is done.
The sixth ball over is a carbon copy of the fourth and Wade repeats the act: another scoop over the keeper’s head. Australia are in the World Cup final and will face New Zealand on Sunday.
There wouldn’t have been many takers for this particular result when Wade and Stoinis, two sort of forgotten men, got together.
Chasing a big 177, all the big boys were back.
David Warner entertained but walked back thinking he had edged. Aaron Finch had gone back in the first over. Glenn Maxwell didn’t hang around for long.
Steven Smith played a very un- Smith innings. They were 96/5 after 12.2 overs. Wade and Stoinis, at that point in time, felt like lambs being led to the slaughter house.
They had of course done this before at this World Cup when they got over the line in unconvincing fashion against South Africa but this was something different. Bigger.
Under the Dubai lights, they had one thing going for them, though. Both of them like the ball coming onto the bat.
Considering they open for their respective franchises at the Big Bash, both of them are positive match-ups against pace.
With Shadab Khan having bowled out and Imad Wasim not trusted to bowl out his quota, Babar Azam turned to his three big guns to bring home the contest. Stoinis and Wade, though, helped them to a big feast.
They were able to free their hands and play through the line as the dew took effect. Attempted yorkers became length ‘hit-me balls’ and they disappeared. The quicker Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali and Afridi bowled, the faster it went to the boundary.
Pakistan, in time, may also rue the fact that they left a few runs when they were asked to bat first.
Babar and Mohammed Rizwan, who had a lung condition a day before the semifinal, had a relatively good powerplay but they failed to capitalise on some generous bowling.
In fact, if it weren’t for Fakhar Zaman’s death overs blast, they wouldn’t even have reached 176. In the end, thay may have proved to be the difference apart from that dropped catch at the end.
Finch & Co, though, won’t wonder. Their next target is New Zealand. Their neighbours stand between them and a first ever T20 triumph.
Brief scores: Pakistan 176/4 in 20 ovs (Rizwan 67, Fakhar 55; Starc 2/38) lost to Australia 177/5 in 19 ovs (Warner 49, Wade 41 n.o, Stoinis 40 n.o).