Australia face an uphill battle to end their Twenty20 World Cup drought, despite a masterclass from million-dollar man Glenn Maxwell which nearly stole victory from Pakistan in Dhaka on Sunday night.
A horror night in the field was nearly papered over by Maxwell’s pyrotechnics, in which the powerful right-hander struck a blistering 74 as Australia were bowled out for 175, falling 16 runs short of Pakistan’s target of 192.
Australia’s task seemed mountainous when dropped catches and general sloppiness helped Pakistan’s brothers Akmal, Umar (94 off 54) and Kamran (31 off 31).
Both brothers, as well as Shahid Afridi (20no), were dropped in an uncharacteristically poor day in the field by the Australians – Umar proving the most costly after being dropped on 22 by veteran spinner Brad Hogg.
The target looked improbable when top order stars David Warner (4) and Shane Watson (4) fell in the opening over – before an extraordinary display of power-hitting from Maxwell gave hope for the tourists.
Dubbed “The Big Show” by teammates for his explosive match-winning ability, Maxwell earned a $1 million Indian Premier League deal with the Punjab XI this year.
And he gave an example of why, blasting six sixes, seven fours and narrowly surviving a nasty beam-ball from pedestrian paceman Bilawal Bhatti.
Opener Aaron Finch played the sideshow, finishing with 65.
Maxwell brought up his 50, the equal fastest by an Australia from just 18 deliveries, with a towering six over long on and added 118 runs along with Finch for the third wicket before being caught on the boundary.
His exit was quickly followed by George Bailey (4), Brad Hodge (2), Finch and Nathan Coulter-Nile (0) as Australia crumbled with the finish line approaching.
Earlier, Australia were their own worst enemies in the field – wasting a promising start by Doug Bollinger through sloppy fielding.
Bollinger (1-28) and Watson (1-38) grabbed early wickets to reduce Pakistan to 2-25, before Australia let go of the ascendency with a 96-run third-wicket partnership between the Akmal brothers.
Umar, who hadn’t expected to play against Australia due to a hamstring injury, was particularly destructive, blasting four sixes and nine fours.
Coulter-Nile finished with the best figures of the match, with 2-36 and should’ve had Umar’s wicket had it not been for Hogg’s lacklustre fielding.
Hogg endured a forgettable night, capturing figures of 0-29 off three overs in addition to his costly dropped catch.
The win keeps Pakistan’s tournament alive, following their opening game loss to India on Friday, but and leaves Australia in a do-or-die scenario, likely requiring wins over all of West Indies, India and Bangladesh to progress to the semi-finals.