|ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, Taunton|
|Australia 307 (49 overs): Warner 107, Finch 82, Amir 5-30|
|Pakistan 266 (45.4 overs): Imam 53, Hafeez 46, Cummins 3-33|
|Australia won by 41 runs|
|Scorecard; Table; Schedule|
David Warner scored his first international century since serving a year-long ban for his part in the ball-tampering scandal in Australia’s tense 41-run World Cup victory over Pakistan.
Warner, transformed from the man who struggled in Sunday’s defeat by India, busied his way to 107.
With captain Aaron Finch also clubbing 82, Australia should have posted more than their 307 all out, only to lose their last six wickets for 30 runs thanks mainly to Mohammad Amir’s 5-30.
Facing a more reachable target than they would have once feared, Pakistan were well placed at 136-2 when their own collapse of 4-24 sucked the life from the chase.
Hassan Ali hammered 32 from 15 balls and Wahab Riaz 45 from 39 balls to revive their vociferous fans, but after Wahab was given out caught behind on review off Mitchell Starc, Pakistan were bowled out for 266.
Pakistan stay eighth in the 10-team table and move on to play arch-rivals India at Old Trafford on Sunday knowing that another defeat would go a long way to ending their involvement in the tournament.
Australia join New Zealand at the top on six points, having played a game more than the Kiwis.
Cricket at last as Taunton dazzles
Not only was it a relief for cricket to return after two days of abandonments, it returned with a magnificent contest that fluctuated throughout.
Despite the grey and chilly conditions, this was a wonderful spectacle. The intimate setting is unique for a tournament mainly being played at large arenas and the vocal spectators filled the boutique venue with noise.
The match itself – played on a juicy surface that offered encouragement for the pace bowlers – was rarely lacking in entertainment.
The early Australia charge was helped by some poor bowling and fielding, with Pakistan’s resurgence first led by Amir and followed up by a third-wicket stand of 80 between Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez.
After Imam gloved Pat Cummins behind, the Pakistan implosion left the crowd silent, only for raucous hope to return through the hitting of Hassan and Wahab.
Just as Australia were getting desperate, Starc asked for a review against a hopping Wahab. It detected the faintest edge and, eight balls later, the game was over.
Even without the hullabaloo of the hostility that Warner’s return to international cricket has attracted, the left-handed opener is having an eventful tournament.
On Saturday, he was left shaken when a stroke he played in practice struck net bowler Jaykishan Plaha on the head and, the next day, his ponderous 56 from 84 balls against India drew criticism.
Before this game, he was backed by Finch and responded with a characteristic performance of punchy strokes, bustling running and the occasional display of power.
Finch, dropped twice, hit four leg-side sixes in their opening stand of 146 before offering a leading edge to Amir.
Warner took over. When he edged Shaheen Afridi between keeper and slip, it took him to three figures and sparked an emotional celebration of his trademark leap and prolonged gestures towards the Australia dressing room.
He was dropped on 104 but holed out soon after, part of an overall slide of eight wickets for 84 runs, wickets falling regularly because of Australia’s inability to kick on and Pakistan’s improvement.
Amir’s excellence in vain
Amir’s performance was all the more outstanding because of its contrast to that of his team-mates who, bar fellow left-armer Wahab, offered little support.
Ignoring fielding littered with mistakes and other bowlers who dropped too short, Amir skillfully exploited the movement with a full length and changes of pace.
When Pakistan finally began holding their catches, Amir got his rewards to move to 10 wickets in the tournament, more than any other bowler.
Even with Australia checked and the Imam-Hafeez partnership proving difficult to dislodge, there remained the feeling Finch’s men were only ever a wicket from taking charge.
So it proved. After Imam was strangled, Hafeez swept a full-toss from part-time spinner Finch to deep square leg, while both Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali edged behind.
Hassan’s hitting seemed nothing more than a consolation, but a stand of 64 between Wahab and Sarfaraz Ahmed left Australia in serious peril and Pakistan’s supporters louder than ever.
As the game got tighter, Finch took some persuading to review the decision against Wahab. He was vindicated, leaving the lethal Starc to bowl Amir and Glenn Maxwell to end the match with a direct-hit run-out of Sarfaraz.
Amir’s performance with ball was ‘astonishing’ – what they said
Former England batsman Michael Vaughan on TMS: “We have seen some wonderful bowling in the tournament but that was an exhibition from Mohammad Amir. It was a masterclass of how to bowl on a pitch that was doing a bit.
“It was his skill that outdid the batsmen not the conditions: 5-30 in this era is astonishing.”
Ex-Pakistan bowler Waqar Younis on the TMS podcast: “Because Amir wasn’t picked initially for the World Cup, it was hurting him a lot and luckily for him some of the other fast bowlers didn’t perform well against England in the World Cup so Pakistan had no choice but to pick him.
“He had a point to prove and he’s been bowling extremely well. That five-for will take him a long way in terms of his confidence.”
Geoff Lemon, Australian broadcaster on TMS: “Australia have been lucky on a couple of occasions now.
“Mitchell Starc saved them against West Indies and he did it again here. They were short despite hitting 307. From where they were, they should have got closer to 400.
“Their batting is disjointed too. Usman Khawaja ended up coming in at number six – he’s never batted at six in a List A game, let alone a World Cup match!”
Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed: “I’m very disappointed. We lost three wickets in 15 balls and that’s why we lost.
“We conceded too many runs in the first 20 overs apart from Mohammad Amir. We came back and restricted them well but it was a 270-280 pitch.
“We made some runs and got starts but we’ve got to convert them and go long. If you want to win matches your top four must score runs.”