Pakistan were in the driver's seat. Australia were on the floor at 96 for five. It seemed curtains for the Aussies. However, an unbeaten 81-run partnership between Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade helped Australia down Pakistan in the second semi-final of the Men's T20 World Cup in Dubai on Thursday to set up the title-clash against their trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand. It will be only the second appearance for Australia in the finale and it will ensure that a new champion will emerge in the Men's T20 World Cup.
Shadab Khan's four wickets, including that of a high-flying David Warner, for just 26 runs went in vain for Pakistan. Warner made an attacking 49 to set a good platform for Australia.
It was the right kind of start with the ball for Pakistan, with Shaheen Shah Afridi dismissing Aaron Finch LBW for a first ball duck with an inswinger. Mitchell Marsh had been subject to three brutal deliveries to welcome him to the middle, which he barely survived.
But soon, he got into the groove and added 51 with Warner, who seemed to be batting in different conditions. The southpaw managed to find the fence regularly off seam and spin and kept Australia ahead of the asking rate.
However, the introduction of Khan into the attack had the desired effect for Pakistan. He dismissed Marsh for 28 in his first over, before Steve Smith (five) holed out in his next. After the drinks, he dismissed Warner caught behind. The replays though showed that he didn't nick it as there wasn't a spike on the snicko.
In his final over, leg-spinner Khan sent back Glenn Maxwell (seven), who perished to a switch hit.
With 81 needed off 50 balls and then 50 off the last four overs needed, it seemed Pakistan just needed one or two decent overs to cruise through but Stoinis and Wade had different plans.
Stoinis hit a four and a six off successive balls of Haris Rauf before Wade took over. The wicketkeeper-batter hit Hasan Ali for a six and a four in the 18th over before hitting Afridi for three successive sixes to seal the win. Wade finished 41 not out off just 17 balls with Stoinis unbeaten on 40 off 31.
Earlier, thanks to half centuries from Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman, the Asian side had managed to score 59 off the last four overs to post 176 for four, after being inserted in. Openers Rizwan (67 off 52) and Babar Azam (39 off 44) shared a 71-run stand before Zaman ended the innings on a high with his unbeaten knock of 55 off just 32 balls.
Pakistan enjoyed their best Powerplay of the tournament, racing to 47 for no loss in six overs after Australia put them in to bat.
Rizwan, who was down with flu ahead of the game, did not look at his best early on and Azam took the lead in attacking the Australian pace attack. The Aussies were looking for some swing early on but they were not able to get it. The Pakistan skipper began with a regal cover drive off a late outswinger from Josh Hazlewood. Azam, who had shown supreme form in the group stage, looked in sublime touch. Among the five regal boundaries he hit, his short-arm jab between deep mid-wicket and long-on stood out.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who has been Australia's go to bowler in the middle overs, finally got the breakthrough Australia needed by having Babar caught in the deep with Pakistan reaching 71 for one in 10 overs. More than the ball, it was the pressure created by Zampa that led to the wicket.
Rizwan, who was dropped twice in the innings, got into the act after Babar's dismissal. The wicketkeeper batter grew in confidence as his innings progressed and once he he got his trademark half full half sweep shot right off Hazlewood, he looked much more dangerous.
Australia did well from overs seven to eleven, conceding only 28 before Rizwan changed gears.
He decided to take the attack to the impressive Zampa in the 12th over which went for 14 runs and included a slog sweep for six.
Rizwan got his second six off Hazlewood two overs later, dispatching the seasoned pacer over deep midwicket.
Zaman, who did not have a lot of runs under his belt heading into the semifinal, hit a flat six over long off to gain confidence.
With Zampa completing his tidy effort, Pakistan were looking for a big over and that happened to be the 17th when Hazlewood was hammered for 21 runs, including a six off a free hit.
After Rizwan's dismissal, Zaman displayed his power hitting skills against Mitchell Starc, clubbing him for a six and four in a 15-run over.
Six-hitting machine Asif Ali had a rare failure in the tournament as he was out first ball off Cummins.
Zaman finished the innings on an exhilarating note, depositing Starc for two massive sixes to take the team past 170.
Zampa (1/22 in four overs) was the pick of the bowlers for Australia while Hazlewood was the most expensive, leaking 49 runs in four overs.
Brief Scores: Pakistan 176/4 in 20 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 67, Fakhar Zaman 55*; Mitchell Starc 2/38, Adam Zampa 1/22) lost to Australia 177/5 in 19 overs (David Warner 49, Matthew Wade 41*, Marcus Stoinis 40*; Shadab Khan 4/26) by five wickets
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