Australia’s fast bowlers, led by man of the match Mitchell Starc, narrowly outshone Pakistan’s spinners as Michael Clarke’s side edged to a four-wicket win in the opening one-day international of their three-match series in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
Starc (5-42) and James Pattinson (3-19) were the chief wreckers as Pakistan were bowled out for 198 in the 46th over.
Although Shahid Afridi (1-37), Saeed Ajmal (3-30) and Mohammed Hafeez (2-29) threatened to strangle the Australia reply, a calm 66 from Clarke and then crucial contributions from George Bailey (57 not out) and Glenn Maxwell (38) meant they eased to victory with 10 balls to spare.
“We were at least 30 runs short in our total,” Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq told reporters after the match. “We’ve played enough cricket [to know what to do] and the most important thing is to bat 50 overs. With our bowling lineup a total of 230 or 240 would have been defendable. Our bowlers tried hard and its OK that we were fighting so well, but you just have to blame the batting.”
Only Asad Shafiq (56) and Umar Akmal (52) passed 30 for Pakistan as Starc and Pattinson ran through their lineup.
Shafiq faced 77 balls and hit two fours and two sixes, before he gave himself room to hit through the offside and was bowled by Starc. Umar, who also hit two four and two sixes, was also dismissed by Starc when he hit the ball straight to cover.
Starc also had the dangerous Afridi caught for a duck, as Pakistan squandered their batting powerplay, and he returned his best one-day international figures, surpassing his previous best of 4-27 against Sri Lanka in Brisbane in November 2010.
Pattinson had put the pressure on the top of the Pakistan order, removing Hafeez (4) and Azhar Ali (5) to leave them 28 for two in the seventh over, from which they never recovered.
“We bowled to our plans really well,” Starc said. “You can say they played poor shots, but we kept it simple, stuck to our game plans and took wickets in the powerplays.”
Pakistan had put early pressure on Australia’s run chase with openers David Warner (5) and Matthew Wade (10) dismissed following wild swings across the line, before Michael Hussey (5) and David Hussey (3) were out in quick succession to Saeed Ajmal.
However, Clarke steadied the innings, patiently working the spinners around and combining with Bailey for 54 runs in 16 overs, before he was trapped in front by Mohammad Hafeez.
Maxwell and Bailey then took Australia to the brink of victory adding 63 in 12 overs, before Maxwell missed a reverse sweep and fell leg before to become Ajmal’s third victim.
The match finished at 2am yesterday having started at 6pm on Tuesday, to avoid the match taking place during the heat of the day, though conditions were still oppressive, with the temperature not dipping below 30oC.