Australia is one win away from claiming its first men’s Twenty20 world title after Matthew Wade rescued his side with a brilliant cameo in a thrilling semi-final against Pakistan.
The Tasmanian wicketkeeper left Pakistan fans in tears after smacking a whirlwind 41 off 17 deliveries, clubbing three sixes in a row to seal victory with one over to spare and set up a Trans Tasman final against New Zealand.
Marcus Stoinis, right, and Matthew Wade celebrate after winning the Twenty20 World Cup semi-final against Pakistan. Credit:AP
The match changed complexion dramatically in the 19th over of Australia’s run chase after Hasan Ali grassed a straightforward opportunity in the deep from Wade.
Wade has played much of his T20 cricket batting at the top of the order but the move to recast him as a finisher has reaped huge dividends in the Middle East.
The left-hander played a vital role in the side’s first win of the tournament against South Africa, but this performance will go down as one of the best T20 knocks by an Australian man.
His performance reprised memories of Michael Hussey’s heist against Pakistan at the same stage of the 2010 tournament in the Caribbean.
Australia’s World Cup dream appeared over after David Warner and Glenn Maxwell departed in quick succession, the former in unusual circumstances, but Wade and Marcus Stoinis changed the course of the game with their unbeaten 81-run stand off just 40 balls.
Few would have thought their heroics would have been needed when a rampant Warner was at the crease.
The dynamic opener appeared to have the game in control, but Pakistan claimed the ascendancy after he was caught behind to a delivery he did not hit for 49 off 29 balls.
Warner did not call for a review, which would have overturned Chris Gaffaney’s verdict as Ultra Edge did not record a spike and replays showed a gap between the bat and the ball.
There was, however, a sound as the ball passed his bat and the Pakistanis’ appeal was full of conviction.
This will be a bitter pill to swallow for Pakistan, who were unbeaten through the Super 12s and did plenty right, only to lose their nerve when the game was on the line.
Australia played catch up from the start after their vaunted quicks failed to break through with the new ball, but it was not until late when Pakistan made their charge, crashing 54 runs from the final four overs.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa continued his excellent campaign, pulling his side back into the contest with the wicket of Babar for 39.
At the top of his game, Zampa has become a bowler who his captain can give the ball to confident that he will get the job done.
Only the world’s No.1 T20 bowler, Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga, has taken more wickets than Zampa’s 12 at 10.91 with an economy rate of less than a run a ball.
He and Maxwell applied the clamps during the middle of the innings against a set Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman, the value of which would become more apparent in the closing overs.
Rizwan was Pakistan’s rock, overcoming a 144 km/h thunderbolt from Mitchell Starc to the grille of his helmet to bat through to the 17th over.
The wicketkeeper made Australia pay a significant price for the reprieves from Warner and Zampa on zero and 21 respectively. Both outfield chances were difficult, but the Australians set such high standards in the field, and the margin between success and failure can be slim at the top level.
Smith’s regulation drop of Zaman on 40 hurt his side late, allowing the Pakistan No.3 to smack back-to-back sixes off Starc in the final over.
Josh Hazlewood is rarely dominated at international level, but on this occasion the giant quick had his colours lowered, conceding 49 runs from his four overs, including an over of 21.
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