Australia has maintained a steady strike rate, reaching 256/4 at the end of 40 overs, as Pakistani bowlers fought back patiently against the defending champs’ middle-order at Taunton on Wednesday in the 17th match of the World Cup.
Australia’s 146-run opening partnership between Aaron Finch and David Warner disintegrated after a breakthrough by left-arm quick Mohammad Amir. Finch tried to smash Amir for a boundary but got caught out by Mohammad Hafeez in the 23rd over with 82 runs off his opening partnership with David Warner (61).
He was succeeded by shamed Australian star Steve Smith, who is back in action following a year-long ball for his role in the ball-tampering scandal that rocked Australia during their tour of South Africa in 2018.
There were fears that Pakistani cricket fans would boo Smith after a large number of Indian fans chanted “cheater” at him at The Oval against India on Sunday. But there has not been a single boo for either Smith or Warner in Taunton. The latter had also faced a 12-month suspension by Cricket Australia for his part in a ball-tampering scandal during a 2018 Test match in South Africa.
Asif Ali caught Smith out for 10 off a delivery from Hafeez in the 29th over. His successor, Glenn Maxwell, was bowled by Shaheen Shah Afridi, who then went onto take Warner’s all-important wicket in the 38th over after a century came up for the Aussie batsman.
Warner edged between wicketkeeper and slip for a boundary and took off to punch the air to celebrate his first century since returning to Australia’s team following his ban. He stroked 11 boundaries and a six from 102 balls to reach his hundred in the 36th over of the match.
Australia survived a probing opening spell by Amir after being sent in to bat by Pakistan. Roared in by chants of “Amir, Amir” from the Pakistan fans in the crowd, the left-armer was on target right from the first ball of the match.
That first over was a maiden and Amir bowled two in a four-over spell in which he conceded a mere 11 runs.
Finch should have been out for 26 in the 13th over when he edged Wahab Riaz, one of three left-arm quicks in the Pakistan side, only for first slip Asif Ali to drop a head-high chance that burst through his hands before going for four.
At the end of the over, Finch was 35 not out and left-hander David Warner 33 not out.
Skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed decided to give his bowlers first use of a green-tinged pitch under overcast skies.
But Shaheen Shah Afridi, drafted in as an extra seamer after Pakistan dropped leg-spinner Shadab Khan, was not as accurate as fellow left-arm quick Amir.
His first two overs cost 24 runs, with Finch pulling a short ball for six and Warner also cashing in with a pulled four when Afridi failed to pitch up.
Australia were sent in to bat first by Pakistan.
Commenting on his choice to bowl first, Sarfaraz said: “A bit of grass, looks like a green pitch, with a bit of moisture.”
“Unfortunately we didn’t play the last game, but worked hard with lots of practice,” he added.
Aaron Finch, the Australian captain said that he would have chosen to bowl first too.
Rain on the cards?
“In one-off games in different conditions, you expect to come up against the best. It’ll have to be wait-and-see what the wicket does first-up.”
Organisers are hoping to get a result in the group game between defending champion Australia and Pakistan after washouts on consecutive days at Southampton and Bristol.
Cool temperatures and light rain are on the forecast for southwest England today but Britain’s Met Office is predicting only a slight chance of rain during the morning at the match venue in Taunton.
Pakistan has already had a game washed out against Sri Lanka in Bristol last Friday and the second game at Bristol between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh was abandoned because of rain without a ball being bowled on Tuesday.
There were only 7.3 overs played in the South Africa-West Indies game before it was washed out in Southampton on Monday.
Reigning champions Australia are looking to bounce back from a 36-run loss to India ─ their first defeat of this World Cup ─ with Pakistan keen to build on a win over England after their last group match, against Sri Lanka, was washed out.
Five-time champions Australia swept Pakistan 5-0 in an ODI in March, and have won 14 of the last 15 head-to-head encounters. But they are coming off their loss to India, and the absence of injured allrounder Marcus Stoinis will enforce a lineup change.
Pakistan is coming off a confidence-boosting win over top-ranked England, which ended a run of 11 ODI losses.
- David Warner
- Aaron Finch (capt)
- Usman Khawaja
- Steven Smith
- Shaun Marsh
- Glenn Maxwell
- Alex Carey (wk)
- Nathan Coulter-Nile
- Pat Cummins
- Mitchell Starc
- Kane Richardson
Zampa sits out, as does Nathan Lyon.
- Fakhar Zaman
- Babar Azam
- Mohammad Hafeez
- Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt & wk)
- Shoaib Malik
- Asif Ali
- Wahab Riaz
- Hasan Ali
- Shaheen Afrid
- Mohammad Amir
Shadab rests for Pakistan, while Shaheen Afridi comes in.