The in-form Pakistan will be up against the mighty Aussies in the second semi-final of ICC T20 World Cup 2021 at Dubai tonight.
The match to decide who will face the Kiwis on the 14th will start at 8.00 pm Bangladesh time.
Pakistan have been the team to beat so far in this tournament, winning all five games in the group stage.
The best part about this Pakistan team has been the fact that they are not dependent upon a few individuals, rather, all of the players are in form and rising to the occasion whenever the situation demands.
In the five games that they played till now, each of them had a different player claiming the Player of the Match award. It shows the number of match-winners they have in the XI.
Besides, the diversity they possess in terms of both batting and bowling is unmatchable. A couple of steady openers in Babaz and Rizwan, a few big-hitting Fakhar at No. three, two very experienced middle-order batters in Hafeez and Malik, and a set of finishers in Asif and Imad – they have literally all basics covered.
In terms of bowling, all three seamers can bowl at 140+ and have excellent death bowling skills. Besides, the new ball movement from Shaheen, the deceptive slowers from Rauf and the hard length from Hasan bring a lot of variety to the table.
The spin twin of Imad and Shadab too creates a lot of mysteries for the batters with the former’s sliders and the latter’s googly along with their respective stock deliveries.
If necessary, the off-spin of Hafeez and Malik can provide further diversity in the middle.
Aussie skipper Aaron Finch specifically mentioned Shaheen while emphasising the importance of making the powerplay count.
"What we've seen over the course of the tournament is how important the powerplay is for batting and bowling. I think the stats around the middle overs and the death overs are pretty similar throughout, but the powerplay definitely holds the key. Shaheen has been in really good form for Pakistan, so that's going to be a crucial battle no doubt," he was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
Australia, barring the exception of the game against England, have been very compact in their performance. Their bowlers have been consistently efficient in restricting the oppositions in modest totals and their batters, although suffered a little hiccup in their opening fixture against South Africa, have been chasing those down very comprehensively.
Aussie seam attack with Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood is unarguably one of the bests in the world right now, providing a perfect blend of pace, aggression, test match line and length, variations with cutters, slower bouncers and knuckles, toe-crashing yorkers, and whatnot.
Along with them, there is the leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who is currently the second-highest wicket-taker (11) in this tournament so far only behind Wanindu Hasaranga (16).
Their batting lineup too is filled with big names with the likes of Warner, Finch, Marsh, Smith, Maxwell, Stoinis, and Wade, batting at top seven. The return to form of David Warner with a 65 against Sri Lanka and an unbeaten 89 against West Indies is undoubtedly the most refreshing news for the Aussie camp.
However, the only potential weak link for Australia that might get exposed to better batting lineups – just like the one Pakistan have – is the fifth bowling option.
In recent games, Marsh, Stoinis, and Maxwell together have played the role of the fifth bowler. However, they have not faced any severe challenges yet since the main four bowlers have broken the backbone of the opposition in most cases. Yet, Stoinis and Maxwell went for more than 50 runs in their four overs combined against Sri Lanka.
Therefore, should one of the main bowlers go for a journey, it will be interesting to see how Australia manage the overs.
Besides, Australia won all four of their games chasing. The only time they batted first was against England where they got absolutely outplayed by the English boys.
If the toss factor goes against them tonight, it may cause a new challenge that has not been cracked by them so far.
Furthermore, of the 11 games that have been played so far in Dubai, 10 have been won by teams batting second. Therefore, both teams will be hoping to get luck in their favour.
Both teams are expected to continue with the winning combinations. There were concerns regarding the availability of Rizwan and Malik due to mild flue, however, both of them have already been declared fit for tonight’s encounter.
These two teams have met 22 occasions in T20Is thus far, of which Pakistan won 13 games against Australia’s 9. In the T20 World Cups, however, both of them won 3 games each.
Interestingly though, Pakistan have never been able to defeat Australia in an ICC knock-out fixture.
The 1987 World Cup semi-final, the 1999 World Cup final, the 2010 T20 World Cup semi-final and the 2015 World Cup quarter-final have all been won by the Aussies.
However, Pakistan must feel confident with the track record they have at the UAE-- 16 consecutive T20I wins with the last defeat being way back in November 2015.
The writer is currently studying at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (IBA-DU).