T20 World Cup semifinals: Australia challenge for unbeaten Pakistan

Pakistan seems primed to clinch its second T20 World Cup title but it will first have to mount the hurdle posed by Australia, a team peaking at the right time, in the semifinals.

Pakistan has now become the team to beat. It is the only team to be undefeated so far in the UAE.

In 2010, the last time these two met in the semifinals of a T20 World Cup, Australia, inspired by Michael Hussey, won a thrilling contest. But in the ongoing edition, Babar Azam’s men have resisted crumbling under pressure. They seem comfortable playing in the UAE, having hosted several seasons of the Pakistan Super League and their home matches here since international cricket in their country was shut in 2009.

Since the historic win over India last month, Pakistan has revealed hardly a few chinks in its armour.

The formidable top-order, led by the tournament’s leading run-scorer Azam (264), who has four half-centuries against his name, is expected to deliver once again. Australia’s bowling attack, though, will also be ready and waiting to capitalise on any slip up.

Array of match winners

In case the opening duo of Azam and Mohammad Rizwan fail, Pakistan has an array of match-winners in the middle order in the form of six-hitting machine Asif Ali and veterans Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, all of whom are among the runs. However, the team would be expecting more from Fakhar Zaman, the only one to have not made a significant contribution with the bat yet.

Pakistan’s bowling attack has been as impressive, fast bowlers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf troubling the batters consistently. Hasan Ali has had an ordinary tournament, however, and although skipper Azam has backed the speedster to come good, Australia is likely to target him. Spinners Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez and Shadab Khan will be skipper Azam’s main weapons against Australia, a side that may struggle against spin.

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Australia, the 2010 runner-up, is beginning to peak at the right time in its bid to win its only missing title. Apart from the eight-wicket mauling by England, Aaron Finch and Co. have registered dominant wins which helped them book a semifinal slot ahead of South Africa. Their formidable pace attack has been incisive, and leg-spinner Adam Zampa, has struck regularly in the middle overs.

All bases covered

In pacers Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins and Zampa, Australia has all bases covered in the bowling department. All-rounders Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh have provided breakthroughs with the ball as well and the team also has the option to play left-arm spinner Ashton Agar.

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The biggest confidence booster for Australia would be David Warner’s return to form. The opener entered the tournament on the back of a woeful run in T20s but has brushed that aside with two half-centuries, including an 89 not out in the previous game.

Warner and Finch make for a formidable opening pair which can take any opposition attack to the cleaners.

Marsh at No 3. has also been among the runs. The ever-reliable Steve Smith is there to stabilise the innings in case of a batting collapse although his strike rate has been under scrutiny. Maxwell has not exactly set the tournament on fire yet, and the team will be relying on him, Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade to provide a bagful of runs in the last five overs.

As is the trend, teams chasing win the matches here, so the toss will be once again be crucial.

Teams (from)

  • Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
  • Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik.
  • Match starts at 7.30 PM IST.

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