Pakistan oozes confidence heading into its T20 World Cup semi-final against Australia on Friday in Dubai.
- Pakistan is the only unbeaten team in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup tournament in the UAE
- Melbourne Stars coach David Hussey says Australia needs to play with intensity and without fear
- Mitch Marsh says there are good vibes in the Australian camp and the team has momentum
Babar Azam’s team is the only unbeaten side in the tournament and all five wins have been convincing, including a 10-wicket mauling of pre-tournament favourite, India.
“It’s going to be rather difficult but don’t discount Australia, they’ve got talent all the way through and if they keep playing with no fear and lots of intensity, I think they can take any team down throughout the world,” said former Australian batter and current Melbourne Stars coach, David Hussey.
Australia came into the tournament off the back of T20I series losses against the West Indies and Bangladesh and with pressure mounting on coach Justin Langer.
The semi-finals of the T20 World Cup seemed a long way off.
“I thought they were gunna be touch and go…the way Australia’s came into the competition with no form behind them, probably low in confidence as well…full credit to Aaron Finch, Justin Langer and the players for getting us through to the semi-finals and now the real competition begins,” Hussey told ABC Sport.
Hussey knows what it takes to perform at the pointy end of the T20 World Cup. When Australia lost to England in the 2010 final in Bridgetown, he top-scored with 59. It’s the only time Australia has reached the final in the tournament.
“In any big game you just keep your batting intensity up, you look to score, try and hit the deep fielders as much as you possibly can and run hard to get rid of all the nervous energy that you may have.
“It gets you into the contest quicker than you normally would do.
Azam’s men haven’t crumbled under the pressure and are comfortable in United Arab Emirates venues that have served as home grounds when other nations refused to tour Pakistan after the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team.
“Pakistan are gunna be the favourites of the competition, they’re chock full of talent with the bat, Babar Azam, (Mohammad) Rizwan the wicketkeeper-batsman, Mohammad Hafeez is still doing it, [and] Shoaib Malik,” Hussey said.
“With the ball they’re very evenly balanced with left arm [paceman] Shaheen Afridi and Melbourne Stars’ own Haris Rauf and they’ve got some good spin as well.
“The way they’ve played throughout the tournament, they’re just class all over the park really.”
Rauf’s wicket-taking form for the Stars in the Big Bash League in the 2019/2020 season led to his call-up to the national team. Hussey says Australia will also need to keep a close eye on fellow pace bowler, Afridi.
“He’s an absolute superstar of a bowler, not dissimilar to when Mitchell Starc first started out playing for Australia, [he] bowls express, can bowl around the wicket, good yorkers, good bouncer, slow ball, he’s at the peak of his powers at the moment.
Australia’s number three batter Mitch Marsh is coming off an impressive 53 against the West Indies and is looking forward to facing the Pakistan bowlers.
“They’re obviously bowling very well with a lot of confidence and there’s been a bit of swing so it’s gunna be a great battle, I just can’t wait to rip in,” said Marsh.
The all-rounder knows he’ll be targeted when he’s got the ball in hand.
“Love the challenge, this is why you play cricket to play against the best teams in the world in a World Cup semi-final.
“It’s purely execution under pressure and if you can do that, then you’ll go well,” Marsh said.
Hussey saw the UAE conditions first hand while working on the Kolkata Knight Riders coaching staff in the recent Indian Premier League competition.
He says while the pitches can be slow, he believes Australia will resist the temptation to select an extra spinner against Pakistan.
“They’re playing particularly well, everyone seems to know their roles and they seem to be enjoying each other’s company too, which is half the battle for a long trip away,” Hussey said.
It’s a theory confirmed by Marsh.
“We’re all having a lot of fun over here and I guess that mentality off the field comes out on the field … playing with a smile on our faces, be nice and calm and just enjoying it.
“We’ve gelled really well and I think that’s really important throughout a World Cup, there’s good vibes in this team right now.
“We’ve gained a bit of momentum going into the semi-finals and that’s what you need so hopefully that can continue for us.”