Bowling will decide the AUS-PAK clash

Posted: May 14, 2010 in T20 World Cup - 2010 West Indies
Tags: ,

St. Lucia: Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi has a theory on how his team manage to inch in just when the final boarding call is made for the line-up in the knockout stages of a tournament.

“We wait for others to fire at us first before we mount our attack,” he said on Thursday, analysing his team’s backdoor entry into the ICC World Twenty20 semi-finals. “On a serious note,” he added, “we should have played better but we are lucky.”

His Australian counterpart, Michael Clarke does not need to make any such statement ahead of the match.

Friday afternoon will see Round Two of Australia versus Pakistan, in very similar settings of the Beausejour Stadium, as the latter look to defend their crown against the best side in the tournament this time.

But there could not be two more different sets vis-a-vis their approach: while Australia have beaten their opponents with ruthless precision, Pakistan have worked bare minimum but clinched the two critical victories required to sneak into the last four.

On the batting front, both weigh more or less similar. Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt have managed to give the same starts, if not as flashy, as David Warner and Shane Watson, while Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal have held the team together, like Mike Hussey and Michael Clarke have for Australia. Then there’s Afridi and Cameron White, respectively, to provide the late sparks.

But it’s the bowling that will decide whether Pakistan reach their third successive ICC World Twenty20 final or Australia earn their first shot at the title.

Beating the speed gun

For Australia, Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson have been in regular business in St Lucia. Though Steven Smith has caught everyone’s attention, the leg-spinner will come under severe scrutiny from the Pakistan batsmen, who will hunt him down as the weak link.

Pakistan’s problems lie with the new ball: while Mohammad Asif does not enjoy the skipper’s confidence, Mohammad Sami has not reposed the faith yet. The spin trio – Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez – has served the team well so far, with skipper Afridi himself completing the quartet and bailing out the team on more than one occasion.

Batting first will be a bonus on a wicket expected to slow down and be more sensitive to wear and tear. The bigger boundaries will test the power-hitters.

Calling Friday’s clash a “huge game” for the team, Clarke said: “It’s going to be tough for us. Pakistan have several spinners, and they have class. They have players with a lot of international exposure and we need to play like we have played throughout this tournament. We need to be at our best, both physically and mentally, to play against Pakistan because they are a very good team.”

Afridi returned the compliment with a straight bat: “Australia have now learnt how to play T20 cricket. They have a strong batting and bowling line-up. But we played them on this ground in the first round and we know the areas where Shane Watson and David Warner play their shots. We have a plan for them.”

Afridi said Pakistan would play to their strengths. “We have three genuine spinners who can use the conditions very well. Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal have been bowling well and we are confident that they will perform in this crucial game.”

Pakistan have been consistent in this format, while Australia have been consistent in this edition. One of the two will snap at the end of the afternoon but by then it’s expected to be a great contest.

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