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After being handed a proper hiding at the hands of Pakistan in the first Twenty20 International, Australia will need to make a quick turnaround and find a way to keep the series alive when they face the opposition in the second T20I at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
Pakistan - No.1 on the ICC rankings - played to their potential as the visitors, chasing 156 for a win were shot out for a mere 89 in 16.5 overs. It was a clinical effort from the bowlers, in particular Imad Wasim, who on his return to international cricket after more than a year rattled the Australian top-order to return figures of 3/20 in his four-over spell. None of Australia’s top six batsmen even managed to cross 14.
The visitors lost their first six wickets inside the Powerplay which the Australian captain Aaron Finch called “a car crash in slow motion."
“That Powerplay was horrific…it was like a car crash in slow motion," Finch said at the post-match press conference. “Opening the batting, it’s my responsibility to get us off to a good start and set up the chase there.
“I take full responsibility for that. I think any time that you’re chasing a total like that it’s important you have a solid start and for me to get out in the first over and not give us that was not good enough."
It was not just spin that brought about Australia’s undoing. Faheem Ashraf and Shaheen Afridi picked up two wickets each while Haasan Ali too chipped in with the key wicket of Ashton Agar, the second-highest scorer of the innings.
Australia have just a day to rectify the loopholes that were so glaringly visible in the first T20I. They might be tempted to bring in Mitchell Marsh, who was rested for the opening game to bring some solidity to the middle-order, but a lack of batting options might not allow them much of a shuffle.
Their bowling stood out though, with Billy Stanlake and Andrew Tye picking up six wickets between them to restrict Pakistan after the hosts had gotten off to a flyer. Spinners Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa were good too and they will hope for a similar show come the second T20I.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have fewer problems to think about with the ball but batting still remains an issue. After Babar Azam (68*) and Mohammad Hafeez (39) had stitched together a 73-run stand for the second wicket, taking the total past the 100-run mark, the hosts lost their way. From 105/1 they were reduced to 133/8 in the space of 26 balls with six of their batsmen not even managing to cross double-digits.
The likes of Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Faheem Ashraf and Sarfraz Ahmed will want to pitch in a bit more in the coming games especially if the top-order fails to fire. Azam, ranked fifth on the ICC charts, was brilliant yet again showing his class with a crucial half-century in trying conditions and will hope to do more of the same in Dubai as well.
The conditions in Dubai for Friday are expected to be hot and dry. There will be some turn on offer for the spinners but owing to the variable bounce on the surface, the pacers will enjoy their time as well.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c, wk), Shaheen Shah Afridi, Asif Ali, Hassan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Babar Azam, Sahibzada Farhan, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Waqas Maqsood, Usman Khan Shinwari, Hussain Talat, Imad Wasim, Fakhar Zaman
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Mitchell Marsh (vc), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Darcy Short, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Mitch Starc, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.