Taha Hashim tells the tale of Australia’s Steve Smith-inspired seven-wicket win over Pakistan in Canberra through six deliveries.
Babar does his thing
2.4, Mitchell Starc to Babar Azam, FOUR
Even with the burden of captaincy, his batting remains a sight for sore eyes. Babar Azam began his innings with a few delightful strokes through the off side: his trademark backfoot punch emerged against Kane Richardson, and Mitchell Starc was put away through the covers not long after.
As if he were the most gifted kid on the playground, Babar made sure to show off all his tricks, and the high point arrived when he whipped Starc nonchalantly through the leg side with the snappiest movement of the arms; the control of it made you think he’d been ordered to by the push of a PlayStation controller button.
While his scoring rate slowed down as his innings progressed, it took a stunning direct hit from David Warner to send him back. Nevertheless, the highest-ranked T20I batsman in the world trudged off having gone to his 12th half-century in the format. He remains a class above the rest of his colleagues.
Babar doing Babar things 😍😍😍 pic.twitter.com/oS0C08nxgh
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) November 5, 2019
Canny Agar strikes again
11.2, Asif Ali, c Pat Cummins b Ashton Agar, 4 (5)
It was off the last ball of Agar’s spell that Babar was run out, and the left-arm spinner did what you want from a tweaker in the middle overs: to rack up the dots, make boundaries a rarity and deliver the odd breakthrough.
Having already accounted for Mohammad Rizwan, Agar’s second scalp further displayed his talent for subtlety. He darted in the arm-ball, the seam upright, and Asif Ali’s slog sweep was never going to be the right riposte. Pat Cummins – who returned excellent figures of 1-19 from his four overs – settled under the catch at long-on to leave Pakistan looking under the weather at 70-4. Babar was fuming at the other end.
The languid, ice-cool Agar went about his business in admirable fashion and went on to finish his spell with figures of 2-23, with seven dots bowled and just two boundaries conceded.
Iftikhar comes to the rescue
18.1, Kane Richardson to Iftikhar Ahmed, SIX
At 106-5 with four overs left to play and Babar back in the shed, it was time to go hell for leather and try and find a score of some respectability. Iftikhar Ahmed had enjoyed a patient beginning alongside Babar – his first 10 balls yielded seven runs – but his power-game made sure to make an appearance later on.
While he carved Cummins behind point for four with gentle class, his bludgeoning of Richardson displayed a more brutal streak. The highlight was the shot that kickstarted the penultimate over, a pump over long-off for six. Twenty-two runs came from the over, 21 from Iftikhar’s blade. His 34-ball 62* led the way for Pakistan in finishing on a promising total of 150-6.
Warner finally departs
2.6, David Warner, b Mohammad Amir, 20 (11)
In recent weeks it has been difficult to remember David Warner’s travails during the Ashes. He has well and truly put his Stuart Broad nightmare to bed: in the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka, he racked up scores of 100*, 60* and 57*. Pay close attention to the asterisks. In Australia he remains a frightening sight for any bowler.
In Canberra he looked set to inflict even more damage, taking four fours of one Imad Wasim over. But Mohammad Amir emerged as the man to break Warner’s unbeaten streak, castling him as the left-hander gave himself room to try and hit through the off side. Amir’s vociferous roar said it all. Warner walked back having been dismissed in international cricket for the first time since The Oval Test in September.
Smith fills Amir with regret
16.6, Mohammad Amir to Steve Smith, FOUR
By the end of the 17th over, Mohammad Amir was probably wishing he’d kept David Warner out in the middle for a little while longer. Steve Smith cruised through the run chase, and as Australia inched nearer, he couldn’t resist subjecting the left-armer to a bit of torture.
Twice in the over he dissected the gap between mid-off and extra cover, but it was the final flourish that made you want to run out to the middle, give Amir a cuddle and tell him it would all be over soon. A full delivery was somehow sent for four through point, with those whirlwind arms coming through for a ridiculous lofted drive, as he rocked back and let fly.
Steven Peter Devereux Smith.
That’s it. That’s the tweet. pic.twitter.com/2sFqUXQHmd
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) November 5, 2019
The edged uppercut to fine-leg – welcome to Steve Smith’s world
17.4, Wahab Riaz to Steve Smith, FOUR
It got even funkier during the next over. Wahab Riaz’s slower-ball bouncer was watched carefully and Smith’s extension of the arms saw the ball come off the edge of his bat and head to the fine-leg boundary. It summed it all up for Pakistan. Smith finished unbeaten on 80 and Australia will head into the final T20I with a 1-0 lead.