Bowlers, Maxwell Set Up Series Win

Australia wrapped up another away ODI series against Pakistan, rebounding strongly after Ahmed Shehzad and Sarfraz Ahmed's century opening partnership. Pakistan were 126 for 0 at the halfway mark after choosing to bat on a dry, slow pitch, but lost 10 for 89 after that as Australia's bowlers, led by Mitchell Johnson, choked the runs for the rest of the innings.

Pakistan have not won the most ODIs after posting 220 or less for nothing, and their attack wasn't going to make it easy for Australia, but there were too few runs to defend in the end. Glenn Maxwell fired for long enough to ensure the chase remained straightforward for Australia even though Pakistan kept taking wickets. Maxwell made 76 off 81, and Australia hauled in the target inside 44 overs.

Pakistan fell apart after the openers departed in successive overs in their sixties. Misbah-ul-Haq was run out just before the batting Powerplay, off which Pakistan managed 21 for 2. Fawad Alam pottered through to the end with a bizarre, unbeaten 20 off 39, as only 29 came off the last ten overs.

Throughout, it was the batsmen getting themselves out rather than the deliveries doing so. Shehzad began the slide as he smote a flat Xavier Doherty delivery to short midwicket. Sarfraz half-heartedly chipped a full and wide Johnson delivery to point, the first of two times the fast bowler struck with the first ball of a new spell.

Misbah, as he often does, took his time at the start of his innings. With Asad Shafiq also seeking to bat himself in, the partnership consumed 7.3 overs, mostly of spin, for 29 runs. And then, with eight balls to go for the batting Powerplay, they attempted a tight single off a Glenn Maxwell misfield, and Misbah was found short despite diving in. His 15 came off 29 deliveries.

Umar Akmal then swung Johnson to mid-off in the batting Powerplay. Asad Shafid did the same off Nathan Lyon two overs later after having found his touch during his 29.

The meltdown allowed George Bailey to attack with slips even at the death, resulting in an edged slog bringing Shahid Afridi's early fall, Johnson the bowler again. Alam kept finding the infield thereafter, unable to muster either power or placement. It was an incredible fizzling out of an innings that had began so strongly.

The last time a Pakistan opening pair had put on 100-plus was in January 2013 when Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed added 141 against India in Kolkata. Since then, Pakistan's opening partnership had averaged under 27 in 43 innings.

Shehzad and Sarfraz were the ninth pair at the top during that period, and the wicketkeeper justified his promotion with his maiden ODI fifty, to go with a breezy 34 in the first ODI. Although Shehzad began the innings with a glanced four off Johnson, he and Sarfraz seemed determined to be patient.

Both were prepared to wait for width and score square of the wicket on the slow pitch. They appeared in danger only with their running as the Australians fielded sharply in the inner circle, but often missed with their throws. Both used their feet well to spin. They stepped out frequently, and also walked across to nudge for runs behind square on leg side. Shehzad went hard through the off side when he had the chance, while Sarfraz employed his sweeps and slog-sweeps, and also chipped over midwicket. Pakistan were looking set for at least 250 after such a start, only to crumble.

The bowlers now needed to strike early as well as keep Australia from getting too far in front too soon. They did the former, removing Aaron Finch and Steven Smith cheaply, but David Warner's 29 off 27 meant that by the time he fell in the 14th over, Australia had knocked off a third of the runs.

That allowed space for Bailey's extended struggle; the Australia captain took 68 balls for his 28. It also allowed Maxwell to get a measure of the somewhat difficult pitch and the attack. The partnership was worth 85 at close to five an over, of which Bailey's contribution was 21.

Bailey and Maxwell were both on 28 after 26 overs. Maxwell pulled away spectacularly after that, and Bailey stalled completely. When Bailey was run out in the 31st over, Maxwell had zoomed to 60 as he launched a series of pulls, slogs, sweeps and reverse-sweeps against the spinners. That blitz from Maxwell ended what remained in the contest.

Pakistan had put down Warner on 5 and Maxwell on 2, both rather difficult chances, but their own batsmen had already inflicted decisive damage upon their side.

(Cricinfo)



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