Matthew Wade performed a commendable salvage operation for Australia to put up a total that proved well beyond the reach of Pakistan in the first ODI at an enervating Gabba. Defeat may be particularly ruinous for the visitors given an apparent hamstring tear to the captain Azhar Ali, who must now be in grave doubt for the rest of the tour.
Azhar suffered the injury early in Pakistan’s ultimately doomed pursuit, and did it no favours when coming back out to bat at the fall of the sixth wicket. Brisbane’s hot and humid weather also claimed an Australian casualty, with the debutant Billy Stanlake appearing in some distress and unable to add to his initial three overs.
Fortunately for Australia’s captain Steven Smith, he had plenty of other bowling options to call upon, including the exceptionally-tidy Travis Head. Regular wickets down the order to James Faulkner, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins meant Pakistan were always short of what was required. Azhar’s injury will create a leadership conundrum for the tourists, as the vice-captain Sarfraz Ahmed has returned home for personal reasons.
The day had begun more promisingly for Pakistan. Unbalanced by Mohammad Amir’s dismissal of David Warner and Smith in consecutive balls, the newly-promoted Head and Chris Lynn were unable to go beyond cameos. Glenn Maxwell played sensibly for his 60 but Wade was left to accompany the tail through the later overs to notch his highest ODI score and third international century to ensure a decent target on a pitch that played a little more trickily than appearances suggested.
That impression was strengthened when Pakistan batted, as a series of mistimed strokes prevented the pursuit from developing any momentum. After the long break forced by Azhar’s injury, Sharjeel Khan shelled Faulkner to mid-on, before Mohammad Hafeez followed a delivery going across him and was well held by Wade.
An offcutter bouncer from Mitchell Starc accounted for Umar Akmal, and a swifter delivery from Pat Cummins was guided unerringly into the hands of Smith at slip by Babar Azam. Mohammad Rizwan was held on the juggle by Marsh, and Mohammad Nawaz bowled by a hint of inswing from Starc before Azhar’s vain effort to revive the innings.
The hosts had included two debutants in Lynn and the tall Stanlake, while Head moved up to open alongside Warner instead of the jettisoned Aaron Finch. Pakistan were unable to consider an ill Shoaib Malik, meaning the inclusion of two spinning allrounders in Imad Wasim and also Mohammad Nawaz.
Azhar called upon Hafeez to bowl the second over of the innings after his return from remedial work on his bowling action, and the gambit contributed to a subdued start by Warner and Head. Amir was duly permitted to calibrate his radar, and responded with the sweetest of late outswingers to confound Warner, then a delivery angled nicely across Smith for a first-ball edge behind.
Lynn, appearing at the scene of so many BBL feats for the Brisbane Heat, was able to connect with one powerful blow over straight midwicket, but fell victim to a presumptuous heave at a Hasan Ali slower ball to sky a catch. Head peppered the cover boundary off both front and back foot, but was less successful when he tried to drive Imad Wasim and was well held by Mohammad Rizwan behind the stumps.
Rizwan claimed another fine catch to account for a hesitant Marsh, and Wade arrived at the wicket without a half century in any format since October. Initially he played in Maxwell’s considerable slipstream, the allrounder contributing well on his return to the XI, but after he also offered a high catch from a miscue and then Faulkner snicked to slip, Wade took control.
Fighting fatigue, he added 42 with Cummins, 23 with Starc and a hectic unbroken 33 with last man Stanlake to give Australia’s bowlers a chance under lights. Wade’s desire to get every last run was summed up when he turned little more than half a run into two with madcap running between the wickets to ensure he was on strike to reach a richly deserved three figures from the final ball of the innings.
Wade then proved his durability by keeping soundly throughout Pakistan’s failed chase, despite the heat; not just the Man of the Match, the iron man too.