Smith steers Australia to 1-0 T20I series lead over Pakistan

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The weather forced the teams off the field five minutes early for tea with Australia on 70 for one Photo: @CricketAus/Twitter file

Australia’s key batsman Steve Smith hit an unbeaten 80 as the hosts edged Pakistan by seven wickets in Canberra to lead the three-match Twenty20 series by 1-0.

Pakistan which entered the tournament as the world’s top-ranked team in the shortest format set a target of 150 for six, with skipper Babar Azam recording his consecutive fifty and Iftikhar Ahmed clubbing a quickfire 62.

However, the visiting bowlers could not contain Smith who stroked his fourth half-century in T20Is off 36 balls, with six boundaries and a six, as Australia reached 151 for three with nine balls to spare.

This victory, after the series-opener in Sydney on Sunday (November 4) was abandoned due to rain, put them in a lead of 1-0. The final game is in Perth on Friday (November 8).

“Very pleasing. I thought we were pretty good all day,” said skipper Aaron Finch.

“To get wickets consistently was key. Everyone is playing their roles really well, and we’ve got guys like Steve, who does what he does best.”

Also read: Pakistan saved by rain as first T20I against Australia gets washed out

Australia is on a hot T20 streak, having not been beaten in their last seven matches.

“Credit goes to Smith. He took the game away with a magnificent innings. We are very disappointed. We didn’t bat well in the powerplay,” said Azam.

David Warner had been in fantastic touch after scoring 219 without losing his wicket in four previous innings, and he ominously smashed 16 off Imad Wasim’s opening over.

However, the explosive opener was clean bowled by Mohammad Amir for 20, missing a drive, and when Finch fell for 17 to veteran seamer Mohammad Irfan, Pakistan’s hopes were up.

But with Smith at the wicket, it was never going to be easy and the experienced campaigner picked the gaps and found the boundary ropes with impeccabley timed shots, while grabbing quick singles.

With Ben McDermott at the other end, he pushed the score to 86 for two off the first 10 overs before his partner fell lbw to Wasim for 21. It left Smith and Ashton Turner with 45 runs to win off 42 balls, which they managed comfortably.

Also read: In-form Warner leads Australia to T20 clean-sweep over Sri Lanka

Earlier, Azam, the world’s top T20 batsman, again anchored the Pakistan innings with a 38-ball 50 as teammates fell around him until he found support from Ahmed, who notched a maiden, and entertaining, half-century.

After Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat, opener Fakhar Zaman, desperately in need of runs, was left floundering against Pat Cummins and was out for two, driving to Warner at mid-off.

Haris Sohail came to the crease but only lasted nine balls, gone for six. It took the wind out of Pakistan’s sails, and the runs dried up before Azam and Mohammad Rizwan began to push the scoreboard along — until Ashton Agar dismissed Rizwan and then Asif Ali in quick succession.

Azam finally found support from Ahmed before the captain was run out for 50 — his 12th in the short format — after some fantastic fielding by Warner.

Ahmed ensured it was a competitive score, smashing 22 off the penultimate over from Richardson.

(With inputs from agencies)