There’s a bit of a history between these two. The last time Pakistan played Australia in a T20 World Cup semifinal was in 2010, and the sub-continental giants, the then defending champions, were winning it till the 39th over of the match. And then a Mike Hussey blitz happened. Three sixes and a four by ‘Mr Cricket’ off the miserly Saeed Ajmal in the last over dethroned Pakistan as T20 champions. It has never been the same for them after that.
But things have started to change after a decade of struggle. Pakistan are back again with a bang. They look like the Pakistan of old, bubbling with enthusiasm, flair all-round the park and the ability to steamroll opposition with a degree of nonchalance.
They have been the team to beat in this T20 World Cup, but Australia are never a comfortable opposition at the business end of a tournament. The Aussies, still awaiting their first World T20 title, have peaked slowly and are looking good just when it matters.
David Warner has found form, the bowling unit is looking decent and the famous Aussie grit, too, is there to be seen. TOI takes a look at the factors that can tilt the balance in this game of Russian roulette that will decide who plays the final on Sunday.
The Powerplay battle
It is this phase of six overs in both the innings that are absolutely crucial for the final outcome of the game. The power players of both the teams — Warner, Babar Azam, Mitchell Starc, Shaheen Afridi — all will be in play and both the teams will try to cancel each other out, if not win, this phase of play.
“Pakistan are in great form at the moment and their approach in the powerplay overs, both batting and bowling, have been crucial to their success. Afridi has been in brilliant form but getting runs on the board will be beneficial for both teams in a knockout game,” Australian captain Aaron Finch said.
For that to happen, the Aussies will need Warner to deal with the pace and swing of Afridi. And while bowling, it’s imperative that Starc and Josh Hazlewood have some sort of control over Babar and Mohammed Rizwan, an area where the Indian bowlers failed miserably a couple of weeks ago.
Pakistan’s middle order
Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik aren’t the regular names discussed in conversations about T20 match-winners. Both are at the fag end of their careers and it’s Babar’s belief in these guys that have helped them clinch their berths. But are players who know the UAE conditions so well, have all the experience to help the team wriggle out of a different corner.
Compare this with the Australian middle-order and you will see that there aren’t too many names who will give you a sense of confidence in a tight T20 situation. Not even Steve Smith, whose best format isn’t T20, or Marcus Stoinis, an IPL regular who is not at his best at the moment.
Australia’s one big hope in the middle-order is Glen Maxwell, but the Pakistan bowling probably has enough depth to deal with the swashbuckler, who knows only one way of playing: a fifth gear.
Toss, dew and crowd factor
The match is in Dubai and dew will again play a crucial role. Australia are heavily dependent on the leg-spin of Adam Zampa and if the Aussies are to bowl second, it is going to be an uphill task for them. The Pakistan team knows all too well how to make most of these conditions in the UAE, where they have been forced to play most of their cricket in the last 10 years. It’s like a home venue for them, with solid crowd support too.
If the conditions favour Pakistan, courtesy the toss, the Aussies may have to wait for one more year to get a shot at the T20 World Cup title.
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