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Beanpole quick Billy Stanlake last night produced his third outstanding performance in the past three weeks as Australia hammered Pakistan by nine wickets in Zimbabwe.
Stanlake took 4 for 8 from four overs as Australia rolled Pakistan for 116 before chasing down that total with nine overs to spare in the first match of the Twenty20tri-series.
While Australia had a horror tour of England, losing all seven of their limited overs matches, Stanlake underlined his massive potential. The 23-year-old was battered a couple of times, which is not surprising given the strength of England’s batting, the ultra-flat pitches on offer, and the lack of bowling support Stanlake received.
But he also conjured two performances of rare class and potency during the ODI series. In the first ODI at the Oval he bowled Jason Roy with an absolute jaffa, and troubled all of the English batsmen with his hurrying pace and disconcerting bounce to finish with 2-44 from ten overs.
That was only a taster, however, with Stanlake stunning England to almost single-handedly win the fifth ODI. Stanlake dismissed Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan to leave England in a mess at 4-27. It was a remarkable display against the world’s number one ODI team by an extremely green bowler.
Stanlake built on that yesterday when he bullied Pakistan, the world’s number one T20I, in Australia’s opening match of the Twenty20tri-series in Zimbabwe.
He scythed through the Pakistan batting line-up to take 4 for 8 from his four overs – the second best figures by an Australian bowler in Twenty20history, after only James Faulkner’s 5 for 27 against Pakistan two years ago. While Faulkner achieved those figures by tricking the Pakistanis with his array of change-ups, Stanlake bulldozed them with brute force.
Stanlake barely gave the Pakistan batsmen a chance to get on the front foot, continually pushing them back in their crease with ferocious bouncers and rearing back-of-a-length deliveries. From the third ball of the innings Pakistan opener Mohammad Hazfeez pushed meekly well away from his body and steered the ball to first slip, where captain Aaron Finch took a sharp catch above his head.
In his next over Stanlake got the ball to lift nastily towards the throat of Hussain Talat, who could only fend at the delivery which lobbed off his glove towards fifth slip. Finch made great ground to complete a slick diving catch.
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Yet another short ball from Stanlake did for Fakhar Zaman, who strangled it down leg side to keeper Alex Carey. That wicket convinced Finch to bowl out Stanlake, who in his fourth consecutive over got the ball to lift off a length at Pakistani captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who nicked to Finch at slip.
In between these four wicket taking deliveries the Pakistani batsmen hardly located the middle of the bat against Stanlake. The young Australian seemed to intimidate each of the Pakistani batsmen he encountered.
It is this fear factor which could see Stanlake become a surprise Test candidate next summer, as I predicted in May.
With Stanlake having shown repeatedly he can rattle international batsmen, I can see him leapfrogging into the Test team should injury strike down one of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood or Pat Cummins. The Australian selectors love big, scary quicks.
After Stanlake helped skittle Pakistan last night, Australia’s batsmen cruised to the meagre target of 117 from just 10.5 overs. Finch starred, once again, hammering 68 from 33 deliveries, including six sixes.
He was particularly harsh on Pakistan’s spinners, repeatedly smiting them down the ground to or over the boundary. Australia have one more match against Pakistan and two against Zimbabwe before potentially taking on one of those two sides in the tri-series final.