Pakistan win despite Maxwell blitz

Pakistan held their nerve to win a thriller of a match by 16 runs against hot tournament favourites Australia in front of a packed Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka.

Pakistan held their nerve to win a thriller of a match by 16 runs against hot tournament favourites Australia in front of a packed Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka. In doing so Pakistan kept their tournament hopes alive and Australia will likely need to win all of their three remaining group games to make the next round.

The match was a lot closer than the margin of victory suggests as Australia looked all but certain to chase a massive target of 192 before some exceptional bowling turned the game around once again.

Pakistan played four spinners and Australia played four seamers in an example of team selection that so reflects the relative strengths of the two sides. Pakistan were put in to bat and a shaky start saw them 25/2 in no hurry when man of the match Umar Akmal (94 off 59) joined his brother Kamran (31 off 31 balls) at crease.

The pair steadied the ship as well as can be expected from such an unsteady side and then Umar, who was reported to be suffering from both a hamstring niggle and a high fever, became increasingly destructive. Kamran successfully rotated the strike while his brother gave an exhibition in big hitting and the pair added 96 runs from only 51 deliveries.

Umar fell narrowly short of a spectacular ton in an innings that boasted four massive sixes and showed equal measures of respect for good deliveries and disdain for poor ones as he targeted the weaker back-up bowlers. A tidy cameo from Shahid Afridi (20 off 11 balls) took the men in green to a daunting 191 for 5 (20 ov). Aus were uncharacteristically off-colour in the field, dropping regulation catches and fielding sloppily on the boundary.

In reply Australia also lost early wickets as Zulfiqar Babar (2/26) struck twice in the first over claiming the prized scalps of David Warner and Shane Watson cheaply. However Glenn Maxwell (74 off 33) and Aaron Finch (65 off 54 balls) fought back and added 118 runs from 62 deliveries and reduced the asking rate to only 7.5 runs to the over. Australia were in cruise control and between them the pair struck fourteen fours and eight sixes and turned the game on its head. Bilawal Bhatti (2/36) conceded 30 runs in a single over and Pakistan's heads dropped as a loss would just about put them on a plane home.

But Afridi (2/30) wouldn't have it that way. The unorthodox leggy dismissed Maxwell and George Bailey (4) in quick succession and then Umar Gul (2/30) got Brad Hodge (2) in the 16th over. Australia would still have fancied their chances with Finch still at the crease and 30 needed off 20 balls and five wickets in hand. Finch had struggled to read Saeed Ajmal (1/33) though and when the 17th over by the spinning maestro conceded only a single run and brought the wicket of Finch then the game quickly evaded the grasp of the Aussies. Australia collapsed to 175 all out in the final over.

Ajmal has a record of 19 Twenty20 wickets against Australia at an average of 14 in Asia with an economy rate of under a run a ball and his class was once again was the difference between the two sides. Bangladesh is formerly a province of Pakistan and while the relationship between the countries is a complex one, the crowd seemed to cheer Pakistan home to victory. The result keeps things alive for all the sides in the group.

<b>Nick Sadleir at the World Twenty20</b>