David Warner answered his critics in style with a well-compiled century as Australia held off a Pakistan fightback for a 41-run win in the Cricket World Cup on Thursday morning.
Warner was criticised after a slow half-century against India harmed Australia’s chances of chasing down a victory target of 353 on Sunday.
But the opener hit his 15th one-day century – and first since he returned from a ball-tampering ban – as Australia was bowled out for 307 in Taunton.
The win saw Australia move to second in the World Cup standings, before a meeting against Sri Lanka at The Oval on Saturday.
It could have been better, given Australia was 2-223 in the 34th over, but Warner’s 107 and Aaron Finch’s 82 helped set up an important victory.
Pakistan was dismissed for 266 in response, with Pat Cummins (3-33) and Mitchell Starc (2-43) leading the attack as Australia made it three wins from four World Cup games.
“It means a lot to a batsman,” Warner said of his century.
“But for us, it’s about the way that we finished just then. There was some great efforts, some great knocks from Pakistan,” he said.
“Our bowlers bowled fantastic there. [It] probably got closer than we probably expected but, look, it was a great game.”
Australia captain Finch added: “We didn’t bat out our 50 overs, which was really disappointing.
“We probably tried to go a little bit too hard too early and then ended up probably 20 or 30 runs short, I think. But that happens. It’s great that we still got the two points.”
Pakistan’s chase started poorly as opener Fakhar Zaman was caught at third man for a third-ball duck off the bowling of Cummins.
Babar Azam hit seven fours in a 28-ball 30 before being removed by Nathan Coulter-Nile (1-53) before Imam-ul-Haq (53) and Mohammad Hafeez (46) staged a fightback with Pakistan at 2-136 after 25 overs.
When Cummins had Imam caught behind, that triggered a collapse of 4-24, as Hafeez, Shoaib Malik (0) and Asif Ali (5) fell in quick succession.
Pakistan once again rallied as Hasan Ali (32 off 15 balls) and Wahab Riaz (45 off 39) swung hard and cleared the boundary at regular intervals.
From 6-160, Pakistan moved to 7-264, before Starc came back into the attack to remove Wahab and Mohammad Amir (0) in a crucial 45th over.
And Maxwell produced a direct-hit to run out Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed to seal an important victory.
Earlier, Australia looked on track for a mammoth score after Warner and Finch combined for a 146-run partnership in 22.1 overs.
Warner set the tone by pulling the second ball he faced for a boundary and 17 runs came from the fourth over, an ominous sign for Pakistan.
Finch received a huge life on 26, Asif spilling a routine chance at first slip, and he was dropped again by wicketkeeper Sarfaraz.
The Victorian made Pakistan pay for the second drop, hitting two fours and a six off the next three deliveries.
Amir finally made the breakthrough as Finch’s leading edge was caught by Hafeez and the left-armer bowled particularly well to Warner as he looked to dismiss the dangerman.
Steve Smith (10) came and went quickly, falling in a similar fashion to Finch, and Glenn Maxwell’s 10-ball cameo included two fours, one six and saw him dismissed for 20.
Shortly after, Warner brought up his century, taking 102 balls to achieve the milestone after an edge flew between Sarfaraz and first slip and raced away for four.
Warner produced his trademark celebration and was then dropped in the next over by Asif.
But unlike Finch, he did not get a second life, caught at deep point in the next over, and Warner’s dismissal sparked an unlikely collapse of 7-65.
Amir was the chief destroyer, removing Shaun Marsh (23), Usman Khawaja (18), Alex Carey (20) and Starc (3) in an inspired spell of bowling at the death.
He finished with figures of 5-30 off 10 overs but a mid-order collapse left Pakistan with too much to do, as Australia bounced back in impressive fashion following a 36-run loss to India.