David Warner’s SCG love affair continued with another dynamic century during the fourth One-Day International (ODI) against Pakistan on Sunday (January 22) to propel Australia to an 86-run win and a series victory with one match to spare.
Warner’s 119-ball 130 was the catalyst of Australia’s mammoth 353 for 6 with Pakistan falling well short to be bowled out for 267 in the 44th over. It continued Warner’s astounding form at the SCG after his momentous Test match there earlier this month where he scored a century in the opening session of the match and notched the fastest half-century in Australian Test history in the second dig. His latest SCG special was his 12th career ODI century, with eight of them having come in the past 12 months.Reminiscent of the Test match, Warner’s blitz stunned Pakistan, who bowled poorly exacerbated by diabolical fielding, spiralling to new-found lowly depths for a habitually poor fielding team.
The ragged effort rattled a shaky Pakistan, who started disastrously in reply when captain Azhar Ali, returning after missing the previous two matches, was caught in the slips off Josh Hazelwood (3 for 54) during the second over.
However, quite fittingly, Pakistani opener Sharjeel Khan briefly revived his team’s flagging fortunes during a memorable onslaught reminiscent of Warner, who the brutish left-hander has been compared to. Much like Warner, Sharjeel (74 off 47 balls) was white hot from the get go, hitting consecutive boundaries and taking a liking to paceman Mitchell Starc, who appeared somewhat sluggish after a week’s break.
During a stuttering ODI series, Sharjeel has teased at various stages without being able to materialise his prodigious talents. However, with the burden squarely on him to conjure a miraculous run chase, Sharjeel rode a wave of confidence with an array of powerful strokes. Even the meticulous Hazelwood couldn’t limit the damage with Sharjeel’s counterattacking paying dividends.
With pace looking innocuous on such a staid pitch, Steve Smith, Australian captain, turned to recalled legspinner Adam Zampa (3 for 55 from 10 overs) and Travis Head’s part-time off-spin for the breakthrough. With other ideas, Sharjeel was intent on eviscerating the spinners and succeeded during a surreal stretch where he smashed four boundaries and a six in seven balls.
Sharjeel combined in an impressive run-a-ball 73-run second-wicket partnership with Babar Azam (31), who was continuing his fine form from Perth where he posted a sublime 84. Suddenly, Australia would have started having apparitions from letting slip previous matches attempting to defend massive scores.
However, Smith was rewarded for sticking with his spinners when Head removed Babar, who was caught on the boundary by Hazelwood with his slick catch a notable juxtaposition to the slippery fingers of the Pakistanis.
Zampa, who had been overlooked for the previous five matches, snared the prized wicket of Sharjeel, whose slog sweep failed to clear the longest boundary at the SCG and was snared by a jubilant Warner as Australia sensed victory and a series triumph.
The legspinner picked up another important wicket when he dismissed the dangerous Mohammad Hafeez (40 off 40 ballls), while Head virtually ended the match when he claimed Shoaib Malik (47), who was brilliantly caught by a diving Warner completing his fairytale performance.
Earlier, Smith won the toss for the fourth straight time in the series and had no hesitation to bat on a flat pitch amid perfect weather conditions, a welcome change after the SCG Test earlier this month was marred by rain.
For the first time in the series, Australia had a rollicking start through Warner, who was finally unleashed after a trio of low scores. The rampaging southpaw finally got on top of his nemesis Mohammad Amir (1 for 75 from 10 overs), who was unable to conjure swing unlike in previous matches where he menaced early.
Intent on rediscovering his blistering best, Warner was on a mission and slapped four boundaries in his first nine deliveries in an eerily similar display to his dual historical deeds at the ground early this month. Warner smashed his half-century off just 35 balls to equal his fastest ever in ODI cricket.
The vice-captain partnered perfectly with his skipper during an effortless 120-run stand. After his match-winning century in Perth, Smith (49) continued where he left off with a boundary first ball and helped ensure a platform was laid for an impregnable total.
Warner batted sensibly as his century approached and eventually struck his ton off 98 balls in the 30th over to familiar rapturous applause from the SCG faithful. Warner and Smith fell in quick succession to the hardworking Hasan Ali (5 for 52 from 10) but Australia’s momentum continued through blistering batting from Glenn Maxwell (78 from 44) and Travis Head (51 off 36) as Pakistan fell apart in a shambolic display.
Maxwell’s inventiveness came to the fore with an astounding switch hit six off Imad Wasim from just the seventh ball he faced but Head was not to be overshadowed, smashing four sixes and ensuring Australia went past 350, which proved more than enough.
Australia’s comprehensive victory means the fifth and final game of the series at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday (January 26) will be a dead rubber but looms as an opportunity for Pakistan to finish a disappointing tour on a positive note.
Brief scores: Australia 353/6 in 50 overs (David Warner 130, Glenn Maxwell 78, Travis Head 51; Hasan Ali 5-52) beat Pakistan 267 in 43.5 overs (Sharjeel Khan 74, Shoaib Malik 47, Mohammad Hafeez 40; Adam Zampa 3-55, Josh Hazelwood 3-54) by 86 runs.