HARARE: Shaheen Afridi took three wickets as Pakistan completed a clinical 45-run victory over Australia on Thursday in the Twenty20 tri-series in Zimbabwe.
Pakistan batted first and opener Fakhar Zaman registered a career-best 73 as they raced to 194 for 7. Then left-arm seamer Afridi starred with three wickets as the bowlers held Australia to 149 for 7 in a match which was effectively a dress rehearsal for Sunday’s final.
Pakistan lost Haris Sohail for a golden duck after being put in to bat on a chilly midwinter morning in Harare, but Zaman and Hussain Talat wrested back control with a rapid 72-run stand.
Talat cracked three fours and a six before playing one shot too many to be bowled by Glenn Maxwell’s offspin.
Zaman continued to middle his aggressive strokes and went to a 33-ball fifty, his third for Pakistan in this format, with a slog sweep for six, while another big hit off Andrew Tye’s seamers took the batsman past his previous best of 61.
An edged four took Pakistan beyond 130, and Zaman into the 70s, in the 15th over, but he pulled the next ball he faced straight to Maxwell on the edge of the circle at midwicket.
The quick dismissal of captain Sarfraz Ahmed, edging a Tye legcutter into the hands of wicketkeeper Alex Carey, put a further dent in Pakistan’s batting, but the experienced Shoaib Malik ensured that the runs kept flowing.
He hit 15 off the 17th over, bowled by Marcus Stoinis, boosting Pakistan beyond 150. After he fell, Asif Ali struck three fours and two sixes in an unbeaten 37 to keep the pressure on Australia right to the end of the innings.
Pakistan kept the pressure up with the ball too, Afridi taking the vital early wicket of Aaron Finch when the Australian captain had made just 16.
Bowling from the Golf Course End, Afridi swung and seamed the ball prodigiously to trouble the batsmen. He trapped Glenn Maxwell lbw, and then rattled D’Arcy Short’s stumps as Australia slipped to 75 for 5.
Their chase never recovered from the early losses, with the rest of Pakistan’s attack chipping in with wickets in a much improved performance.