Gillette T20 INTL Series v Pakistan
Super Smith leads Australia to victory
No.3 makes masterful 80no to guide hosts to seven-wicket win and a one-nil series lead over Pakistan
Sam Ferris at Manuka Oval, Canberra
5 November 2019, 10:03 PM AEST
Pakistan 6-150 (Iftikhar 62no, Babar 50; Agar 2-23) lost to Australia 3-151 (Smith 80no; Irfan 1-27) by seven wickets with nine balls to spare
The match in a tweet
'Mr Fix It' Steve Smith puts on a masterclass to guide Australia to a seven-wicket victory and an unassailable 1-0 series lead
If there were any concerns in the Australian camp when David Warner fell early in the run chase they were quickly dashed at the sight of Steve Smith walking out at No.3. Called 'Mr Fix It' by his coaches and teammates, Smith was untroubled as he posted his second T20I half-century this summer to guide his country to victory. His first boundary was a whipped six over deep backward square leg, as if struck by a contortionist wielding a cricket bat. He kept the beautiful Jack Fingleton Scoreboard ticking over before he opened up his arms against Mohammad Amir with three boundaries through the off-side. He finished with an audacious ramp over the keepers' head and a slog over cover to finish with 80no, his highest T20I score in more than four years.
The run out
David Warner proved why he is one of the best fielders in the world with an incredible direct hit from the outfield to run-out Babar Azam. Warner sprinted from long on to intercept the ball outside the 30-yard circle, threw to the keepers' end off balance and hit the base of the stumps to find Babar short of his ground. The piece of brilliance ended Babar's innings on an even 50 and perhaps kept the tourists from reaching a score closer to the 180 that was deemed par on a sublime batting surface.
The captain's knock
Babar got Pakistan off to a solid start with precisely-timed boundaries against the new ball, classical cricket shots that pierced the infield and hurried to the rope. His early flurry was stalled by tight bowling from Pat Cummins, Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa through the middle overs which may have contributed to his downfall when he took on the arm of Warner and lost. T20 cricket's No.1 batsman now has scores of 68no, 45, 50, 59no and 50 in his five innings against Australia. He was not there to complete the construction, that was left to Iftikhar Ahmed.
The consolation effort
Iftikhar Ahmed had already taken down Kane Richardson for four and six in consecutive deliveries before Babar was dismissed, but once his captain departed the right-hander went into overdrive. Richardson was his main target, taking the paceman for 21 from the penultimate over to bring up a bruising half-century from 29 deliveries. While his innings was punctuated with fierce stroke play, he did ride his luck – a top-edge over Alex Carey's head and a misfield on the deep point boundary brought back-to-back fours to reach his 50 and he was dropped the following ball by Ben McDermott who flung out a hand hoping to prevent a six. The late-innings blitz gave Pakistan something to bowl at and leave Richardson with figures of 1-51 from four overs.
For the first time this international summer, Warner was dismissed. The dynamic opener mauled the Sri Lankans in the preceding three-match T20 series to the tune of 100no, 60no and 57no, before finishing on 2no in the washout in Sydney. The left-hander looked good for another big score after he hit gun spinner Imad Wasim for four fours in the second over but the introduction of express speedster Mohammad Amir brought his downfall. Backing away to hit over the off-side, Warner missed and Amir hit to send the Australian on his way for 20. Warner was left to watch the rest of Australia's chase in the dugout with ice on his left arm having copped a nasty short ball from towering quick Mohammad Irfan – a knock he later explained had played a role in his decision to tee off.
The support act
Agar had played second fiddle to spin twin Zampa in the Sri Lanka series but against Pakistan the left-armer has taken centre stage. Following his 1-23 in Sydney, the bowling allrounder collected 2-23 from four overs in Canberra. He outsmarted Mohammad Rizwan with an arm-ball that slid through the gate to have the batsman stumped, while Asif Ali could not get enough on his lofted shot that was caught by Cummins down the ground. Pakistan targeted Zampa for the second straight match, taking the leg-spinner for 31 from four overs to go with the 0-30 from three at the SCG.
Tonight's win marks the first time since 2010 that Australia has gone seven T20 matches without tasting defeat. Two wins in India in February, three against Sri Lanka, the washout in Sydney and Tuesday's win makes it a magnificent seven for Finch's side.
The next stops
It is on to Perth for the series finale on Friday. Like Manuka Oval, Perth Stadium will host its first men's T20 International having already welcomed Test and One-Day International cricket. With the prospect of two long-haul flights across the continent in the space of four days on the eve of the Domain Test series, do not be surprised to see either Cummins or Starc held back in the east.
Australia XI: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Ben McDermott, Ashton Turner, Alex Carey, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.
Pakistan XI: Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan, Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan
Gillette T20 INTLs v Pakistan
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir.
November 3: First T20I, SCG, No result
November 8: Third T20I, Perth Stadium, 4.30pm (Fox & Kayo)