50 overs Australia 327 for 7 (Khawaja 98, Maxwell 70, Shinwari 4-49) v Pakistan
Pakistan’s chances of avoiding a whitewash appear slimmer than ever as Australia posted the highest total of the series, crossing the 300 mark for the first time to set the hosts 328 to win.
As has been a reliable pattern over the past four games, the tone was set by the openers, a 134-run stand between Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja paving the way for the big total.
Just like Glenn Maxwell had done in the last game, Khawaja fell just two runs shy of yet another ODI hundred. Even so, it was his fifth score of 88 or higher in the past seven innings, and the supporting cast of Finch, Shaun Marsh and Maxwell did their jobs; all got half-centuries.
For Pakistan, Usman Shinwari was the lone wickettaker for the bulk of the innings; the couple he managed were the only ones to fall for the first 45 overs, or the 274 runs scored within them.
Pakistan won the toss for the fourth time in five games, and seeing how close they had come previously, Imad Wasim opted to field again. To restrict Australia, however, they would need early wickets, and with the form both Finch and Khawaja are in, that was no easy feat.
Pakistan’s lackadaisical fielding efforts didn’t exactly help build pressure, and the incoming Mohammad Abbas – brought in to regain the control Mohammad Hasnain had lacked – had the opposite effect. Once Khawaja got him away for a pair of boundaries in the fifth over, Australia were away, and Finch’s lofted six off him in the following over indicated their fearlessness against Pakistan’s bowling attack.
Imad Wasim began with a maiden, but so poor was Pakistan’s ground fielding it was hard to see how the field would complement the bowling. Turning ones into twos is a good skill to have, with the proviso you need to be the batting side. In the field, Pakistan were continuously guilty of this magnanimity, with Umar Akmal and Yasir Shah just two of the more notable repeat offenders. There weren’t any catches grassed, but then again, Finch and Khawaja didn’t so much as allow Pakistan a sniff for the first half of the innings.
With time to seal a World Cup slot running out, Shinwari could not have made a better final impression this series. He allowed just 14 runs in his first five overs, taking the wicket of Finch through nothing more than raw pace and a hint of seam movement, rushing Finch into a shot which never made contact. He was also the man to remove the other opener, again using his tearaway pace as the ball climbed onto Khawaja, who had become noticeably edgy as he approached his hundred. Bowling at the death might not have helped his figures, but he still finished with 4-49 in his ten overs.
Maxwell and Marsh both scored fifties too, in contrasting styles. When Marsh came in, he ensured the scoring rate kept ticking over through the middle overs, giving Khawaja the support he required through that phase. He managed the first boundary off Shinwari to get Australia going again after Finch’s removal and reached his second half-century of the series in 53 balls to take his series tally to 182 at an average just below 61.
Maxwell was predictably explosive, given a perfect platform by the top order. Once more, however, he could have walked back early. Off the first ball of the innings, he helped Shinwari to fine leg, where a horrible misjudgement from the fielder saw the ball sail over his head and for a boundary. He would make Pakistan pay for it again, something Pakistan caught wind of when he smashed Yasir Shah for three fours in the following over. In what seemed like minutes, he had had brought up a 26-ball fifty.
There was still time for a four and a six off Haris Sohail before Junaid Khan finally knocked back his off stump for a barnstorming 70 off 33. It was one of a flurry of wickets to fall in the final five overs, but by then 300 had been crossed, and the kangaroo had well and truly bolted.