Aaron Finch’s second consecutive century and a brilliant 88 from Usman Khawaja continued Australia’s resurgence in ODIs as they thrashed Pakistan by eight wickets to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series at Sharjah. Finch, who had scored a century on his first game, registered his highest individual score and his 209-run opening stand helped Australia clinch their fifth consecutive ODI win after beating India 3-2 in the five-match ODI series earlier in the month. The performances of Australia in the sub-continent has put them on track for their World Cup preparations and Finch’s side are peaking at the right time as the five-time world champions look to defend their title.
Pakistan were once again lacking experience and their bowling resources dimmed even further when Mohammad Amir was rested for the game and Mohammad Hasnain, who had impressed in the Pakistan Super League was handed his debut. Pakistan chose to bat and they were rocked by twin strikes from Jhye Richardson. Richardson removed Imam-ul-Haq (0) but Shan Masood and Haris Sohail, who hit a century in the first ODI, struck boundaries on a regular basis to boost Pakistan.
The hosts were slowed down by the wicket of Masood for 19 when Shaun Marsh took the leading edge off Richardson but Australia suffered a blow when the young pacer dislocated his shoulder while trying to dive and stop the boundary off Marcus Stoinis. Mohammad Rizwan and Masood shared a fifty-run stand as Pakistan made steady progress.
However, the stand was broken in an unlikely way when Finch, with the ball, got Sohail to edge a flatter ball to Alex Carey. When Umar Akmal fell to Nathan Lyon for 16, Pakistan were wobbling but Rizwan continued to bat confidently, notching up his fourth fifty. Shoaib Malik lofted Lyon for a six over long off and he tore into the bowling in the middle overs, smashing fthree consecutive boundaries off the off-spinner.
Malik notched up an aggressive fifty, his 44th overall while Rizwan smashed his maiden ton. The 127-run partnership boosted Pakistan and they managed to score 54 runs in the last seven overs as they reached 284/7. In response, Usman Khawaja started off confidently while Finch dropped anchor.
Both batsmen settled into the groove and maintained a brisk rate of scoring. Finch tackled the spinners well by clobbering Yasir Shah over long on for a big six. The 20th over the Australian innings took the game away from Pakistan with Finch hammering two sixes and a four off Yasir as 17 runs were conceded to put Australia in the driver’s seat. Finch overtook Khawaja and the left-hander notched up his fourth fifty-plus score in the last eight games as Pakistan struggled.
Finch notched up his 13th fifty by flicking Hasnain to deep midwicket for a couple but the 209-run opening stand ended when Khawaja holed out to Yasir at deep midwicket to miss out on his ton by 12 runs. The wicket, though, did not stop Australia’s march with Glenn Maxwell slamming two sixes off Imad Wasim. Although Maxwell fell for 19, Shaun Marsh and Finch guided home. A six and a four off Faheem Ashraf got Australia over the line by eight wickets with 13 balls to spare.
The third match will be played at Abu Dhabi on March 27 and Australia would be aiming to seal the series. Pakistan, on the other hand, will be aiming to stay alive in the contest and break their 17-year jinx in ODI series against Australia.