It is the second Semi-final and one of the tournament favorites, Pakistan will face Australia. The last time these two teams met in a T20 World Cup semi-final encounter, a batter named Michael Hussey clubbed 22 runs in the last over against Saeed Ajmal to reach the Finals of 2010 edition. In fact, the men in green have never won a match against Australia in a Quarter-final/Semi-final/Finals stage of an ICC limited-overs format event. In four matches, they have lost all.
However, things are different this season. In-form batsmen and steaming fast bowlers of Pakistan have dominated this edition so far and them being unbeaten throughout the Super 12 stage is a testimony of it. Despite their stupendous record against Pakistan in knockouts, Australia face an uphill task in their semi-final encounter.
Aaron Finch in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday (November 10) acknowledged it by saying, “I think what we have seen through the course of the tournament is how important the powerplay is both batting and bowling. The powerplay definitely holds the key, Shaheen Shah Afridi has been in good form for Pakistan, that will be a crucial battle in the game”.
If Shaheen is a threat for Australian batsmen, Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam are the threats to their bowlers. Here are a few tactical match-ups for the second Semi-final between Pakistan and Australia:
Movement at 140+ - A deadly combo against AUS openers
Playing on pacey pitches, raw pace shouldn’t be a problem for Australian batters. However, things have gone in the opposite direction for the Australian openers Finch and David Warner. In T20s in 2021 Finch has averaged 14.5 in nine innings against 140+ deliveries and his partner, Warner has averaged 15 in 10 innings. All the three quicks of Pakistan have the ability to bowl 140+ on a consistent basis. To add more, Finch in T20s in this time frame has been dismissed seven times to balls that have moved in at an average of 20.4 and Warner has averaged 19.5 with four dismissals against balls that have moved away. Against a team that has both variants, Finch and Warner are at high risk.
Can Shaheen break the RHB-LHB combination?
Shaheen has been exceptional throughout this tournament, especially with his fast in-dippers to the right-handers. However, there is a glitch in his bowling which could hand Australia an advantage. When two right-handed batsmen are at the crease, the left-arm pacer has been lethal. Against this particular combination (RHB-RHB), he has bagged five wickets at an average of 16.4 and a bowling strike rate of 15.6, his economy is also on the lower side (6.3). But, against a right-hander and a left-hander combo, Shaheen has faltered. He has picked up only one wicket and has conceded at 7.5 runs/per over and averages 52 and has bagged that solitary wicket at a strike rate of 42.
Can Starc and Cummins bounce Babar out?
The Pakistan skipper has been in tremendous touch in the past few years. Not only in T20s, but in every format. In this edition of the World Cup as well, he is the second-highest run-scorer with 264 runs and he is not far from Jos Buttler’s 269. For Australia, to get him early, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins might play a crucial role with their pace. In T20Is since 2020, 13 of his dismissals against pacers have come from back of a length or Short balls.
He averages 32.1 when bowled on a shorter length/back of a length. With extra pace in the armoury, Starc and Cummins definitely can exploit this to bounce out Babar.
A case for Ashton Agar with PAK middle order struggling against spin
Up the order, Rizwan and Babar have been exceptional against spinners. In T20s since 2020, Babar averages 98.5 against spin and Rizwan has averaged 48.6. Apart from Shoaib Malik who averages 53.5 against spinners, none of the other Pakistan middle-order batsmen average more than 30. Fakhar Zaman averages the lowest (19.2), followed by Asif Ali (20.8) and Mohammad Hafeez (28.8). This may prompt Australia to go with Ashton Agar.
Against the left-arm spinners and leg spinners, Asif averages 19.3 and Fakhar averages 19.7. Adam Zampa who has been in tremendous form will be a very big threat for Asif as he averages 15.5 against the bowling type. To add more, Australian spinners in this edition of the World Cup have picked up a wicket every 11.3 balls in the middle overs, the best among all teams in the Super 12s.
First 15 balls against Malik key
One of the most experienced players of Pakistan, Shoaib Malik has been the mainstay in the middle order. By scoring the fastest half-century for Pakistan in 18 balls in T20Is in his previous match, Malik has maintained a staggering strike rate of 186.8. Again, Starc and Cummins will play a crucial role in stopping him. In T20s since 2020, Malik in his first 15 balls has been dismissed five times to short balls.
In addition, against left-arm pacers, Malik has averaged 18.5 in his first 15 deliveries. Apart from the quicks, if Agar features in the playing XI, he also could be his kryptonite as he averages 18.7 against left-arm spinners. The arm ball of left-arm spinners has been his undoing in the first 15 balls. With three dismissals against the particular delivery style, Malik averages 5.3.
Maxwell and his scoring problems against pace in middle overs
Prior to the start of the T20 World Cup, Glenn Maxwell had shown glimpses of his returning form in the second leg of the IPL 2021. However, in the WC, things have gone south for the all-rounder. In five innings he has scored 29 runs at an average of 9.67.
Known for his big-hitting, the middle-order batsman has struggled against pace in the middle overs in T20Is since 2019. He has a healthy strike rate of 142.7 against spin in this phase, but against pace, he has been striking at 118.6. In his match against Pakistan, he could face three fast bowlers. Against the likes of Shaheen, Maxwell averages 12.5 in three innings with two dismissals.