Since Australia’s halting victory over Bangladesh in Bangalore, two subsequent Group 2 matches have provided considerable clarity to this match. New Zealand’s defeat of Pakistan, followed by India’s last over escape against Mashrafe Mortaza’s team means that Pakistan are still in slim contention for the title – it all comes down to net run-rates.
Should Pakistan win in Mohali, they will need Australia to defeat India in the final match of the qualifying rounds and trust that their own net run-rate – currently far superior to both India and Australia – will be enough to squeeze them into second spot behind New Zealand. However, an Australian win would knock Pakistan out and set up a virtual quarter-final against India. These scenarios mean that the margin of victory in Mohali may turn out to be as significant as the result itself.
Neither team is in their best or most confident shape. David Warner betrayed this on the team’s arrival in Punjab by suggesting that the ICC should institute a T20 exclusive period before the next global event, to be held in Australia in 2020, to ensure that all players have the chance to be at their best in this format. The Australian line-up remains fluid, perhaps more so than some of its members would have preferred. Smith is trying to find the right tempo for T20 after growing into a terrific Test and ODI batsman by following an early innings routine arguably too deliberate for this form of the game. Adam Zampa bowled nicely in Bangalore, but lacks front-line spin help.
Pakistan, meanwhile, have been subjected to ridicule after successive losses to India and New Zealand. Some of Shahid Afridi’s more outspoken comments have also got him into trouble, and injuries to Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz have robbed him of his best line-up. All this adds up to a scenario of some chaos, invariably the position from which Pakistan tend to summon something extraordinary. Australia must be wary.
2015 Kashmir Despatch