Australia and Pakistan clash in the final of the Twenty20 International tri-series on Sunday at the Harare Sports Club to draw to an end a short yet engaging tourney. Both teams won three and lost one of their four games in the league stage and each has beaten the other once in their two encounters in the series so far.
For Pakistan, a 45-run victory over Australia in their last league match on Thursday 5 July will act as a morale-booster ahead of the final. That game was Australia’s first loss in the series, after which they bounced back well to beat Zimbabwe by five wickets on Friday, albeit in a tense finish, to get back to winning ways.
Australia have been bolstered by their captain Aaron Finch, who hit back-to-back half-centuries in the first two games of the series. After finishing on 68* in Australia’s series opener against Pakistan on 2 July, Finch smashed his own world record by hitting 172 against Zimbabwe, the highest score by any batsman in T20I cricket. Australia won both those games.
However, returns of 16 and 3 in the final two games of the series have slightly diminished the good run of form he had had at the start. He still remains a dangerous prospect for any opposition, though, and his will be a prized wicket for the Pakistanis.
Another experienced Australia batsman, Glenn Maxwell, stepped up in the last match against Zimbabwe, as he scored a 34-ball 50, finishing on 56 off 38 to help his side recover from 26/2 while chasing 152. Maxwell had scored 0* and 10 in the two hits before this innings.
Among the bowlers, Andrew Tye has been the most impressive, picking up 12 wickets in the series so far, three in each of the four games he has played, which makes for tremendous consistency. He has been well-assisted by Billy Stanlake, who has seven wickets in the series, and Jhye Richardson, who has accounted for six wickets.
For Pakistan, Fakhar Zaman has been the man in form as he has hit two half-centuries in four innings, including a 42-ball 73 in his last match against Australia. His presence at the top of the order has provided Pakistan with brisk starts.
No.3 batsman Hussain Talat has had a few decent hits as well, scoring 30 and 44 in his last two outings and has kind of made the position his own. He has been helped along by his captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, middle-order batsman Shoaib Malik and lower-order hitter Asif Ali, who have all made small yet useful contributions to the team’s totals.
The biggest positive emerging out of the last match against Australia was Shaheen Shah Afridi, who, playing only his second T20I and the first game of the series, picked up 3/37 including the wickets of Finch and Maxwell to be a deciding factor in the match. He looks to be a sure starter in the final.
Mohammad Amir, after missing the first two matches, returned to the side and picked up twin hauls of 1/25 in each of his two outings in the series. Usman Khan, the fast bowler, and Faheem Ashraf the all-rounder, have completed the fast-bowling attack while Shadab Khan, who has three wickets and 36 runs from No.8 is the only specialist spinner.
Barring Finch, Maxwell and Travis Head, who made a crucial 48 in the final league game against Zimbabwe, the rest of the Australian batting line-up hasn’t been very impressive and it is there that Pakistan can find a weakness.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye, Jack Wildermuth
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c, wk), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Sahibzada Farhan