Australia are looking to their top-order batting led by the explosive David Warner as well as Adam Zampa’s bag of leg-spin tricks to get past a red-hot Pakistan in Thursday’s second semi-final of the T20 World Cup.
The Aussies made their first semi-final of the tournament since 2012 with four wins and a better run-rate than South Africa.
But they are up against an unbeaten Pakistan who stormed into the final four with five wins in the Super 12 stage including their first ever in the tournament against rivals India.
Australia have won five 50-over World Cup crowns, including three in a row, but still await a T20 world title in six attempts.
The left-handed Warner has led the charge with 89 not out in Australia’s win over West Indies and a quickfire 65 against Sri Lanka, an innings that silenced his critics. He now has 187 runs for the tournament.
“I was never worried one bit about Dave’s form. He’s one of the all-time great batsmen of our era,” said captain Aaron Finch of his opening partner who came into the World Cup on the back of being dropped from his IPL team.
All-rounder Glenn Maxwell said the Australian batsmen will not hold back and go for the runs to unsettle the Pakistan attack led by left-arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi.
“I’ve seen teams go the other way and try and hold wickets back to make sure they get to go at the back end,” said Maxwell.
“But for us it’s probably that playing with freedom at the start and really trying to make the most of the powerplay and put the opposition on the back foot.”
Zampa is the tournament’s joint second-highest wicket-taker with 11 victims but the 29-year-old has gone about his business under the radar.
“I don’t think that anyone has underrated him,” insisted Finch of Zampa who claimed a tournament-best return of 5-19 against Bangladesh in Dubai. “He’s someone who loves the competitiveness, loves the fight.”
Inside the Pakistan camp is Matthew Hayden, the former Australia opener who is the team’s batting coach.
Hayden sees the partnership between skipper Babar Azam, the leading run maker at the World Cup ahead of the semi-finals with 264, and Mohammad Rizwan as key.
“They are very independent players with their own styles but that blend and mix make for the perfect combination. They are unique,” explained Hayden.
Babar and Rizwan hit the ground running at the World Cup with an unbroken 152-run stand as Pakistan trounced India in Dubai by 10 wickets – their first win over their arch-rivals in 13 World Cup matches.
“We will try to continue with the kind of consistency that we have shown in the tournament so far and hope to play good cricket in the semi-finals,” said Babar who has four half-centuries in five innings.
On facing Australia, Babar said: “You can’t take any team lightly in T20 cricket. You have to play good cricket on that day.”
Pakistan have got a finisher in Asif Ali who hit four sixes off Afghanistan bowler Karim Janat to get his team the required 25 runs in the penultimate over of their Super 12 clash.
Veteran batsmen Shoaib Malik, who hit an 18-ball 54 in his side’s last pool win over Scotland, and Mohammad Hafeez add experience to the batting order. And with Afridi in threatening form with the new ball, the 2009 champions seem to have their bases covered.
But former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar warned the side of complacency in their knockout contest. “Forget the Super 12 now, just use the momentum but go into semis with a renewed focus,” Akhtar wrote on Twitter.
AUS vs PAK H2H in men's T20Is
|Mat||Aus won||Pak won||Tied||NR|
|T20 World Cup||6||3||3||0||0|
AUS vs PAK at Men's T20I World Cup
|Pakistan won||6 wickets||Johannesburg||18 Sep 2007|
|Australia won||34 runs||Gros Islet||2 May 2010|
|Australia won||3 wickets||Gros Islet||14 May 2010|
| Pakistan won||32 runs||Colombo (RPS)||2 Oct 2012|
| Pakistan won||16 runs||Dhaka||23 Mar 2014|
|Australia won||21 runs||Mohali||25 Mar 2016|
Aaron Finch, Australia captain:
“I think 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. Yeah, so that’s going to be a crucial battle no doubt.”
Matthew Hayden, Pakistan batting consultant:
“From Pakistan cricket point of view, I feel that as a nation that loves cricket as much as it does, and as focused so heavily on cricket, and also to have tournaments including the ones that I was a part of canceled for numerous reasons, it’s never more important, and the awareness is heightened that out of this great nation we’ve got a squad of players here that are ready to perform and are ready to take on not only the semifinals but should we, inshallah, get beyond that, the finals.”
Top scorer at 2021 T20 World Cup: David Warner - 187
Top wicket taker at 2021 T20 World Cup: Adam Zampa - 11
Path to semi-final:
bt South Africa by 5 wickets
bt Sri Lanka by 7 wickets
lost to England by 8 wickets
bt Bangladesh by 8 wickets
bt West Indies by 8 wickets
Top scorer at 2021 T20 World Cup: Babar Azam - 264
Top wicket taker at 2021 T20 World Cup: Haris Rauf - 8
Path to semi-final:
bt India by 10 wickets
bt New Zealand by 5 wickets
bt Afghanistan by 5 wickets
bt Namibia by 45 runs
bt Scotland by 72 runs
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik.
Pakistan v Australia 1930 IST, Dubai International Stadium – Richard Kettleborough and Chris Gaffaney (on-field), Joel Wilson (third umpire), Richard Illingworth (fourth umpire), Jeff Crowe (match referee).
With AFP, ICC and ESPNCricinfo inputs