PREVIEW:Pakistan finally managed to beat Australia; a significant win for the men in green considering that they have not been able to get the better of the men from Down Under in their last 12 encounters, be it Test, ODIs or even Twenty20s.
The jinx is finally broken and hopefully it will start a sequence of wins as opposed to the long sequence of losses they’ve had against the Aussies. After the match, Pakistan Captain Shahid Afridi looked ecstatic and when asked if this was a sweet revenge for the 2010 T20 World Cup semifinal (which Australia won in a thrilling encounter), he said of course, adding that this was a huge weight off not only his shoulders but also the whole team. One of the commentators in the match, the former England captain Nasser Hussain, at the end of the match said that this Pakistan team are fantastic to watch when they play like this, and even when they have lost in the recent past they have played well, but just could not close the deal. All of that is very true; the talent has always been there, but it was probably just a mental block that is also known as the fear of winning or the nerves on the verge of victory.
This Pakistan team led by the charismatic Shahid Afridi is mostly made up of young players, and they do need some amount of time to get settled at this level or cricket, and once they do, their talent will result in brilliant performances, as it did in Birmingham on Monday.
Australia’s intimidating bowing attack, that boasts the likes of Shaun Tait, Nannes and Mitchell Johnson, all of whom can bowl well over 90 miles on consistent basis, were not able to push the young Pakistan line-up on the back foot. Same was the case in the world T20, when Australia had been ripping through every batting line-up leading up to the semifinals. The Pakistan team was the only one that stood up to them and gave them a pounding to remember.
It was the bowling on that day that let Pakistan down, but on Monday they had the services of the man they dearly missed in the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean, Umar Gul. He looked to be back to his best form, with the vicious yorkers zeroing in at the toes of the batsmen.
Australia are not used to losing and they do not take it well at all, and what better way for them to hit back but to have the same team on the same venue the very next day. Rest assured that Australia will be coming up with new strategies and plans to unsettle the Pakistan batting line-up. And they will also make sure they do the same to other bowlers what they did to Shoaib Akhtar on Monday. Akhtar was not given any chance to settle in, as Warner smashed him for 5 fours in his very first over.
After the match, the Australian captain did say that maybe in the next match they would have to force Pakistan’s hand by making them bring on Umar Gul earlier, and they would try not to let him settle.
Another area Australia will be eyeing is early wickets. Pakistan have come up with a plan against them in the last two matches of not giving away too many wickets at the top, and that has benefited Pakistan to a great degree. Therefore, Australia will definitely look to attack more in the initial overs to get at least 2 or 3 wickets in the first 6 overs.
As for Pakistan, more of the same is the call from the captain, although he would have to address the middle order collapses that seem to occur more than often. He too was part of it in the first game, and considering how consistent he has been in recent times, he would be eyeing a good score in the 2nd match.
Afridi’s opposite number Michael Clarke has been light on runs in T20s; he hardly put up a good score in the World Cup, and even in the first match at Birmingham, he failed to impress, so he is another man who would be looking for a sizeable score in the 2nd match.
Shoaib Akhtar may not be part of the line-up in the 2nd game, given his performance on Monday; Muhammad Asif is likely to step in for him. Other than that, the line-up is expected to remain the same for both sides.
Batting may be a bit easier on Tuesday as it is expected to be sunny, so the movement in the air in early overs may be minimal. We may be in for a big scoring match in the 2nd of the two T20 matches.
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