Despite their best efforts to throw the game away, Australia have come away with their third win in four starts at the Cricket World Cup, hanging on by 41 runs against a dangerous Pakistan at the Taunton County Ground.
After two days of repeated rainfall, the pitch was finally unveiled from the covers with plenty of grass on it, and there was no question about Sarfaraz Ahmed’s decision as Australia lost yet another toss.
Pakistan were their own worst enemies once they got out into the field though, bowling on poor lengths and putting on an incredibly sloppy fielding display to make things easy for the Australians.
Only Mohammad Amir’s work with the ball would keep Pakistan in the game as he finished with five wickets.
After a mountain of criticism on David Warner for his slow work during the Indian game on Sunday, there would be no such go-slow approach this time as he went on the attack, showing positive intent with his innings from ball one.
Warner finished on 107 from 111, setting up the Australian platform in an emphatic return to his best, building his innings well and playing Amir strongly.
Alongside skipper Finch, the opening partnership for Australia was 146 from 22 overs. Finch departed for 82 from 84, but things went pear-shaped for Australia after that, despite Warner holding things together.
Steve Smith came and went quickly with a silly shot, while Glenn Maxwell was promoted to number four, but only lasted for 20 runs.
Once he and Warner got out, it left Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh – two platform-building batsmen – to try and capitalise on Warner’s efforts, and it predictably flopped as the pair both finished at around a strike rate of around 100.
Alex Carey would bolster the tail with 20 off 21, but for a side who were looking at a score north of 350, 307 felt well short.
Despite that, there was enough in the pitch and it was going to be defendable if Australia bowled well. They made the perfect start as Pat Cummins got rid of Fakhar Zaman in the third over, but Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam then saw off the new ball and began to cash in.
Babar (30 off 28) was then replaced by Mohammad Hafeez (46 off 49) who joined Imam (53 off 75) in a partnership of 80 in just over 15 overs, with Pakistan looking good at that point.
However, they lost 4 for 24 as Hafeez, Imam and then Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali all departed in quick succession, with Australia’s bowlers finally getting something to go their way.
They looked lost in planning though. Only Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are to be feared at this World Cup, with the rest of the attack clearly being seen as second rate by most teams, which was evidenced in the figures of Kane Richardson (2 for 62 off 8.4) and Glenn Maxwell (0/58 off 7).
At 7 for 200, needing 108 off 16.1 overs and with Wahab Riaz joining captain Sarfaraz at the crease, it looked like a lost cause for Pakistan, however, the duo set about making things very nervy for Australia.
While Safaraz would play the anchor role and eventually be the last man out, Riaz teed off and got the run rate back under control, before he eventually departed for 45 off 39.
They put on 64 in just 11 overs, but the return of Starc to the attack proved to be too much, and the end came very quickly after that.
Australia now move on to play Sri Lanka in their fifth clash, while Pakistan get set for their duel with India on Sunday.
Australia: 10/307 (49) (David Warner 107, Aaron Finch 82, Mohammad Amir 5/30) defeat Pakistan: 10/266 (45.4) (Mohammad Hafeez 46, Wahab Riaz 45, Sarfaraz Ahmed 40, Pat Cummins 3/33) by 41 runs.
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