Recent Match Report – Australia vs Pakistan 18th Match 2023/24

Australia 367 for 9 (Warner 163, Marsh 121, Afridi 5-54) beat Pakistan 305 (Imam 70, Shafique 64, Zampa 4-53) by 62 runs

Australia may have drawn level with Pakistan today, but really, they were one step ahead all evening. A game that briefly threatened to break into a thriller ultimately had Australia clinching a routine win, the havoc unleashed by centuries from David Warner and Mitchell Marsh too much for Pakistan to overcome in the end. Pakistan fought back to contain – to the extent that word can be used for a team that posts 367 – Pat Cummins’ side, and gave the chase a good go. But despite a 134-run opening stand between Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique, Australia began to chip away with regular wickets, with Adam Zampa taking four for the second consecutive game. Iftikhar Ahmed and Mohammad Rizwan looked to take the game deep, but eventually Pakistan would lose six wickets for 36 runs as Australia won by 62.

The outcome of this game was, in hindsight, set in stone by the halfway stage of the first innings. Marsh clobbered Shaheen for six in his first over to set the tone, and both openers treated Hasan Ali with similar initial disdain. But Pakistan’s golden chance was yet to come, which Usama Mir – coming in for Shadab Khan – would fail to grasp. Batting on 10, Warner skied Shaheen Afridi to mid-off, with Mir given enough time to set himself and get underneath it. It hit him in the chest before it fell, and Shaheen fell to his knees in despair.

Collectively, Pakistan would spend much of the next two hours in that position. Haris Rauf – on a rare bad day – was clobbered for 24 in his first over, and that was the cue for both openers to ignite. Starting with that over Australia ransacked 101 runs overs a 10-over period, getting themselves well ahead of the game, both openers hurtling towards centuries. They would get there off consecutive deliveries in the 31st over, by which time the 200 was up, and 400 looked a near-certainty.

Pakistan’s fielding would only go from bad to worse, with Shafique grassing Warner once more in the deep before Babar Azam put Steven Smith down at first slip. Afridi – the only Pakistan bowler who truly emerged with credit – removed both Marsh and Glenn Maxwell, promoted to three, off consecutive balls as Pakistan finally looked to rein Australia in.

They would go on to enjoy their most dominant spell in the game. The final third of the Australian innings saw Pakistan completely on top, with regular wickets falling as Australia’s run rate came to something of a screeching halt. That was especially true after Warner finally fell, though not before another huge six off the hapless Rauf had taken him to within a whisker of his highest ODI score, and Australia were marching past 350 at any rate. But the further acceleration they had eyed never really came, thanks primarily to superb death bowling from Afridi, who managed a five-for with wickets off successive balls in the 50th over – the second time he was on a hat-trick in this game. The last six overs had just 29 runs scored as Pakistan carried the momentum with them into the break.

Shaheen Shah Afridi picked up a five-for, one reason for Pakistan fans to cheer•Getty Images

They began brightly with bat, too. While there was little strike rotation and plenty of dot balls, they had brought up 40 in the first five overs before Australia found that line just short of a length to put the brakes on. Kept quiet through most of the rest of the powerplay, it wasn’t until the field spread out that Shafique freed his arms, a four and a pair of sixes off Cummins signalling Pakistan’s intent.

They brought up the 100 partnership in the 17th over, but Pakistan knew they needed much, much more. Only two ODIs have ever been lost outright when a side posted a score as high as Australia’s 367, and it would require big partnerships and probably big hundreds. That is where it seemed Pakistan would fall short as Stoinis struck with his first ball to remove Shafique, and returned to get Imam to hole out to deep point the following over. A couple of wickets turned into a bit of a cluster as Babar, who looked sublime in the brief period he was there, muscled one straight into the opposing captain’s hands at short midwicket, the wild look of delight on Cummins’ face indicating what a huge moment that was.

It sunk Pakistan back into a rebuilding phase as the asking rate climbed. Saud Shakeel and Mohammad Rizwan were just about keeping the runs ticking along, Shakeel taking a liking to the pull shot in front of square which fetched him a few boundaries. It would also prove his downfall, though, as one miscue flew up towards cover on the offside, where Stoinis completed an excellent catch.

Marcus Stoinis struck first ball to break Pakistan’s century opening stand•AFP/Getty Images

With 136 still to get, Pakistan made their last stand. It was spearheaded by the cult hero that is Iftikhar Ahmed as he spanked Cummins for a pair of sixes to bring up Pakistan’s 250, and 13 off the following Stoinis over brought the required run rate down to 8.5. It was perhaps the only time in the game Pakistan might have felt like slight favourites, though Australia reminded them of the one thing they had that Pakistan currently don’t: a world-class spinner.

Zampa returned for a phenomenal final three-over spell. He took a wicket in each of those overs, plunging the dagger further into Pakistan every time. First he trapped Iftikhar in front with one that skidded on, then Rizwan failed to get a sweep away the following over and also found himself pinned in front of his stumps. Off his final ball, Zampa struck the knockout punch, beating Mohammad Nawaz in the air to catch him well out of his crease as the keeper Josh Inglis whipped the bails off, leaving Pakistan eight down with more than 80 still to get.

That done, his team-mates polished the tail off. By the 46th over, it was all done and dusted, Pakistan left to reflect on their mistakes from six hours previously. Australia, meanwhile, are clambering up the table with two successive wins, gathering pace just as their favourite tournament begins to enter its business end.

Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000

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