Finch scores half century as Australia end Pakistan campaign on a winning note

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Australia’s limited-overs skipper Aaron Finch finally had some runs on the board as the tourists defeated Pakistan by three wickets with five balls to spare in the one-off T20 International at the Gaddafi Stadium here.

After losing the three-match ODI series 1-2, Australia ended their campaign on a winning note, first restricting the hosts to 162/8 despite skipper Babar Azam’s polished 66 off 46 deliveries, and then scoring the required runs in the final over, with Finch contributing a half century.

In a repeat of last year’s ICC T20I World Cup semifinal, Pakistan again batted first and were off to a superb start, thanks to Azam’s quick-fire 66. The Pakistan skipper equalled India’s Rohit Sharma on 26 T20I half centuries, tied for second on the all-time list.

But Nathan Ellis pegged Pakistan back, returning figures of 4/28 in only his third T20I appearance for Australia. His incisive bowling saw the defending T20 World Cup champions well within reach of the target for a majority of their reply.

Finch, after his miserable form in the ODIs, top-scored with 55, while Travis Head (26), Josh Inglis (24), Marcus Stoinis (23) and Ben McDermott (22) played useful knocks as Australia wrapped up the win with five balls to spare.

The one-off T20I win adds to Australia’s Test series victory under skipper Pat Cummins, with Pakistan having won the ODI series 2-1.

After being put in to bat by Australia, Pakistan got off to a flier as their openers put on 56 runs in powerplay. Restricting Azam and Mohammad Rizwan — ranked first and second respectively in the ICC T20I batting rankings — was the challenge before the Australian bowlers, and they got the breakthrough when Cameron Green cleaned up the wicketkeeper-batter for 23.

The Australian all-rounder struck again off his very next ball, with Fakhar Zaman giving a straight catch to Finch. Pakistan struggled through the middle overs after a dream start, with Iftikhar Ahmed (13 from 13) and Khushdil Shah (24 from 21) struggling to break loose.

But as long as Azam was at the crease a decent score always looked possible, and the Pakistan skipper registered the 26th T20I half-century of his remarkable career. Only Virat Kohli has more T20I 50s (30) than the Pakistan captain.

But Azam’s fluent knock came to an end when he picked out Adam Zampa in the deep to hand Ellis his second wicket of the night, with the Pakistan opener finishing on 66 from 46 deliveries. The wickets kept tumbling in the final five overs, as the hosts struggled to make the most of the platform set by their openers. Another couple of wickets, this time for Ellis, saw the right-armer finish with figures of 4/28.

Australia’s chase got off to a fine start as the openers made it through Shaheen Afridi’s opening spell without the pace bowler getting success in powerplay. In fact, Afridi was expensive in his opening over, giving away 14 runs. Australia stayed well ahead of the required rate as they looked in control of the chase throughout.

Travis Head got the 2021 T20I World Cup winners off to a flying start with 26 from 14, and Josh Inglis kept the momentum up with 24 from 15, with the score already up to 84/2 after 8.3 overs when he was caught behind off Usman Qadir. Five boundaries in a nine-ball stay in the middle from Marcus Stoinis saw the run rate increase even further, with the power-hitter smashing 23 runs in his sparkling cameo.

The scoring rate slowed as the finish grew closer, with Australia knowing they were well on top as long as wickets remained in hand. And captain Finch reached his half century as the target approached, bringing up his 50 off his 37th ball.

The skipper didn’t quite make it through to the target, with Afridi picking up Finch and Sean Abbot (0) in a 19th over that ensured that the match made it to the last over. But McDermott flicked a four off his pads from the first ball of the final over to see Australia wrap up the win with five balls to spare and with three wickets still remaining, bringing the curtain down on a terrific tour.

Brief scores: Pakistan 162/8 in 20 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 23, Babar Azam 66, Khushdil Shah 24; Nathan Ellis 4/28, Cameron Green 2/16) lost to Australia 163/7 in 19.1 overs (Travis Head 26, Aaron Finch 55, Josh Inglis 24, Marcus Stoinis 23, Ben McDermot 22 not out) by three wickets.

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