SYDNEY: A David Warner hundred. A catalogue of Pakistan fielding errors. A big win for Australia. It was as if the fourth one-day international in Sydney was a recap of the Test campaign earlier this summer. Certainly the result was the same – a series victory for Australia. Unlike in the Tests, Pakistan at least tasted success in this series, having won in Melbourne, but the best they can now hope for is to win the dead rubber in Adelaide and finish 2-3. This was a match that got away from Pakistan early. Warner raced to a half-century from 35 deliveries, and together with Steven Smith lifted the score to 1 for 212 in the 36th over. Glenn Maxwell and Travis Head then built on that platform as Australia plundered 118 from the final 10 overs. Smith, Maxwell and Head all benefited from Pakistan’s awful catching, and the target of 354 would have required the highest successful ODI chase ever on Australian soil. It was too much for Pakistan. Far too much. Only if Sharjeel Khan had sustained his early striking would Pakistan have had a hope, but his dismissal summed up the difference between the two sides. On 74 from 46 deliveries, Sharjeel slog-swept Adam Zampa to deep midwicket, looking for his fourth six of the innings. But Warner, running around the boundary, showed perfect judgment to take the catch and effectively dash Pakistan’s chances. Compare that to a chance that Sharjeel himself had in the deep earlier in the day, when Head skied one off Junaid Khan. Sharjeel grassed what should have been a straightforward opportunity, and Head went on to raise a half-century off 35 deliveries. It was Sharjeel’s second drop of the innings, after he had also put down Smith at backward point. In all, Pakistan missed four very gettable catches as well as two much harder ones.
There were also fumbles and overthrows enough to make the fielding coach Steve Rixon wonder why he bothered. Pakistan’s fielding was more chaotic than the Shahrah-e-Faisal at peak hour, and was one of the key factors in the result. Australia missed a couple of chances too, but took the important ones. Warner snared an even better catch at deep midwicket after the Sharjeel one; running in quickly he snapped it up low to the ground to get rid of Shoaib Malik for 47. But even if Pakistan’s fielding had been perfect, they would still have faced trouble from Warner. He was dropped, but not until he was well past 100. It was his eighth ODI century in 12 months and featured 11 fours and two sixes. He slowed down after his quick start and brought up his hundred from his 98th delivery, but with such a platform he might still have been dreaming of a double-century when he edged behind off Hasan Ali for 130. Warner had been the architect of two key partnerships for Australia: a 92-run opening stand with Usman Khawaja, who edged behind off Hasan for 30, and then a 120-run second-wicket combination with Smith. When Hasan broke the stand, he did it comprehensively, getting both Warner and Smith in the same over – Smith was lbw for 49 – but Head and Maxwell proved more than capable of continuing the destruction.
Maxwell was dropped on 8 by Hasan, who had also grassed Warner on 113, and the Maxwell-Head partnership was worth exactly 100 in just over 10 overs. Both men struck the ball cleanly and went at a brisk rate – Head’s fifty came from 35 balls and Maxwell’s from 34 – before Head was caught in the deep by Malik off the bowling of Mohammad Amir for 51 off 36. Hasan completed a five-wicket haul by getting Matthew Wade and Maxwell (78 off 44) in the final over, but it meant little. Australia had piled on 6 for 353, and Pakistan needed everything to go right to win. It was already clear that this was not an “everything goes right” kind of day for Pakistan. Azhar Ali, back from injury to captain the side again, edged Josh Hazlewood to slip in the second over, and Babar Azam was well caught at long-on by Hazlewood off Head’s offspin for 31 off 39 balls. Then Sharjeel, who had made a 36-ball fifty, fell, and Australia were firmly in control. The required run-rate began to balloon. Mohammad Hafeez was taken in the deep off Zampa for a run-a-ball 40, Malik holed out off Head, Umar Akmal skied a catch off Mitchell Starc for 11, and Mohammad Rizwan was trapped lbw by Zampa for 10. Then came the formalities of wrapping up the tail: Amir was caught behind off Pat Cummins for 5, Imad Wasim tickled a catch behind off Hazlewood for 25, and next ball Hazlewood bowled Junaid for a golden duck. Australia had completed an 86-run win and secured the series. Warner was rightly named Man of the Match; his hundred set up Australia’s total and his two catches highlighted the chasm in the fielding of the two sides. Australia can now head to Adelaide to celebrate the final match on Australia Day; Pakistan look ready for home already.