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Match Review - Australia v Pakistan Tri Series Final - A Cherished Triumph

Shoaib Malik played an anchor role

It was just as well that the present Pakistan squad was oblivious of its country’s history at the final hurdle in a limited-overs tournament. Its victory in the FINAL of the tri-nation T20I against Australia, at Harare Sports Club, represents a truly magnificent achievement. All the more significant for it chased down – historically its weakness - a considerably challenging target of 184, with four balls to spare.

One is mindful, the last occasion Pakistan put up an inspired performance in a FINAL was, way back in the 1989-90, with Imran Khan at the helm of affairs. A run-chase full of drama and nerves was achieved against West Indies at Calcutta in the Nehru Cup.  A few months down the line it was at Sharjah that Pakistan rose to the occasion by beating Australia in the Austral-Asia Cup. It has taken Pakistan 28 years to beat Australia in a final of a limited-overs tournament, reflecting the graph of success of the two cricketing nations.

We are all aware of Fakhar Zaman being a free spirit and his uninhibited 91 (46 balls. 12 fours, 3 sixes) proved once again of his pedigree. With a good eye, he has never needed to be ultra-aggressive and has a knack of picking the gaps with so much ease. A sign of a quality player. With considerable backing and support from the Pakistani contingent present, in Harare, he maintained the right tempo in pursuit of the target set by the Australians. Fakhar seemed a straight forward choice as both Player of the Match and of the Series too.

Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed took guard in the first over with debutante Shahibzada Farhan and Hussain Talat, having succumbed to Glenn Maxwell’s off spin. After a rapid 28, off 19 balls, he was run out, attempting a third run. Shoaib Malik, a survivor of the 2009 ICC World T20 winning squad, brought his vast experience to the crease at a time when his side could have easily slid to another collapse and end up as runners-up. He played his anchor role - if there is such thing in the T20 – to near perfection, just as he did in a match-winning stand with Shahid Afridi, against Sri Lanka at Lord’s in 2009.Shoaib's 43 off 37 balls with 3 fours and a six - a watchful unbeaten knock by T20 standards - in a 107 run 4th wicket stand with Fakhar Zaman, simply flattened Australia. In his chequered career, it is in Shoaib’s own hands to defy his critics and leave behind a positive legacy.

Australia, rightly chose to bat first and would have been happy to post a total of 183-8 off their allocated overs. Although a healthy total built around the opening stand of 95 in 9.5 overs between D’Arcy Short (76 off 47 balls, 7 fours and 4 sixes) and Aaron Finch (47 off 27 balls, 2 fours and 3 sixes) – it required a few fielding lapses from Pakistanis and a number of hits landing in no man’s land. Just when things seemed to be running away from them, Pakistan pulled back the match through sharper fielding and good team work. Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed justifiable frustrated, refused to give in and would soon be smiling to see his team responding so well, more so with a breath taking catch by Shadab Khan, to send back Alex Carey. All credit to Pakistan to force Australia to lose their way from 146-2 off 15.3 overs to 183-8 off 20 overs.

With its youthful exuberance coming to the fore, the present team is growing and progressing well, both individually and collectively. A momentous day for Pakistan cricket, worthy to be etched along with its past glory.

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