x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Final-over blitz by Australia stuns Pakistan

Michael Hussey hits three sixes and a four from the last four deliveries of the World Twenty20 semi-final to send Australia through.

Pakistan fans will be pinching themselves in disbelief, but their luck simply ran out last night. Michael Hussey played one of the greatest innings of his career to carry Australia into the final of the World Twenty20. Australia, resembling a juggernaut in this tournament, were given their first real test of this event, but they proved up to the task subduing a spirited Pakistan side to enter the final for the first time.

Cameron White played the lead role with a stunning six-hitting blitz that pulled his side out of the hole they found themselves in after losing four wickets for 62. Hussey, the "Mr Cricket", then carried them across the line in a thrilling finish, with a cool-headed 24-ball 60. Australia needed 18 runs from the last over and Hussey managed it with a ball to spare, smacking Saeed Ajmal for two consecutive sixes and then a four. With scores level, he made the penultimate ball disappear over mid-wicket.

The three-wicket win, chasing a 192, gives Australia a date with England in tomorrow's final at Barbados. Pakistan, the defending champions, will return home, failing to make the final for the first time in three events. But they can be proud of their achievement. They showed themselves to be worthy semi-finalists, after being lucky to reach that stage. The Akmal siblings had given them a golden opportunity with two classy half-centuries.

Kamran started off with a 34-ball 50 and Umar surpassed that blitz with an unbeaten 56 from 35 balls as Pakistan put a challenging 191 for six on the board. Playing against a team from the Indian Subcontinent for the fifth time in six games at this World T20, Australia looked like finally getting their comeuppance. Chasing the second-highest total of the tournament, they looked like falling short despite a valiant effort from White (43).

Playing the first-half of the tournament like a bunch of headless chickens, Pakistan came out roaring against South Africa to clinch their spot in the semis. Still, few would have given them a chance of stopping the Australian juggernaut. The mighty men of Oz had looked virtually invincible as they strode into the semis with a 100 per cent record. They had not just won all their five pervious games, but annihilated opponents, which included Pakistan in the group stages. But you can never predict which Pakistan team will turn up on a given day. The one that had lost by 34-runs to Australia stayed back in the hotel, and the real World T20 champions turned up.

There could have been some misgivings when Shahid Afridi lost the toss and Michael Clarke decided to let his pacemen loose on a shiny, damp wicket. Things went to plan for the first two overs as Dirk Nannes bowled a maiden and Shaun Tait had the Pakistan batsmen hopping at the crease. In the third over, however, Kamran decided to cut loose, smashing Nannes for two consecutive boundaries and taking 11 runs from the over. Salman Butt followed with two glorious drives through the off, again on the trot, as Tait conceded 13 from his second. The floodgates had opened.

Kamran raced to his half-century from 32 balls, but the diminutive keeper-batsman lasted just two more balls as David Warner ran in from deep cover and dived low to take a stunning catch. That was Australia's first success - after 9.4 overs and 82 runs - and a second followed soon. Butt (32), playing the sheet anchor till Kamran was at the crease, tried to play the role of the aggressor, but perished.

Those two wickets slowed Pakistan down a bit; they had 85 from 10 overs, but managed only 33 from the next five and lost Afridi as well. Kamran's younger sibling, Umar, however, ensured the drip was just momentary as 27 runs came from the next two overs. And that was just the start of the Umar show. Mitchell Johnson was roughed up next, dismissed contemptuously for 24 runs in the 18th over. * Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi