The rookie Steven Smith lived up to the hype after making an international debut to remember as Australia snatched Twenty20 victory from the jaws of defeat against Pakistan at the MCG. The leg-spinning all-rounder from New South Wales - who was one of two debutants, along with Tasmania batsman Travis Birt - showed nerves of steel to swing a game that looked lost Australia's way with two wickets in successive overs as the home side somehow defended a total of just 127. After Australia failed to bat out their full 20 overs, Pakistan appeared on course for a comfortable win when they were cruising at 98 for four but ended up falling two runs short after finishing on 125 for nine. And it was thanks to the unlikely combination of Smith's leg spin and the sheer pace of Shaun Tait that Pakistan capitulated yet again, to ensure they ended a dismal tour without a solitary victory after having been clean swept in both the Test series (3-0) and the one-day series (5-0).
Pakistan had done all the hard work in the second Test last month but suffered a batting collapse chasing a mere 176 runs for victory. Tait, who sent down a 161kph thunderbolt in the opening over, reduced Pakistan to 10 for two before coming back to remove danger man Kamran Akmal, who scored a magnificent 64 off just 33 balls. The South Australian's body may no longer be able to hold up in the longer forms of the game but he showed yet again that he is one of the best bowlers in the world in this format, with three for 13 off his four overs. It was 20-year-old Smith, however, who caused the Pakistan innings to disintegrate when he claimed Fawad Alam, caught at first slip for one, and Rana Naved-Ul-Hasan, stumped for one, in successive overs to finish with a creditable two for 34.
Victoria quick bowler Dirk Nannes then finished off the tourists when he conceded just two runs and claimed the wicket of Umar Gul in the 19th over. Before this game there were questions as to whether new captain Michael Clarke was the right man to lead the team, given there are many who believe his technically correct batting is not suited to the 'slogathon' that is Twenty20 cricket. But Clarke, who promoted himself to number three in his first official game in charge as full-time captain, answered his critics with 32 off 26 balls. It was only the fourth time in 16 innings in Twenty20 internationals that Clarke has passed 30 and his wicket signalled a collapse of four for seven which wrecked Australia's innings.
The real damage came in the 12th over when acting Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik claimed two wickets in one over, first bowling Birt around his legs for one with his off-spin before keeper Brad Haddin was brilliantly stumped down the leg side by fellow keeper Akmal off a wide in what appeared to be a set play by the visitors. In the end Australia could not even bat out the 20 overs, as ever consistent Victoria batsman David Hussey was left stranded on 40 not out. But it still turned out to be enough against a Pakistan side that will be left wondering just how they failed to break their duck in their last match of a summer to forget. * PA Sport
Australia Shane Watson run out (U Akmal) 8 David Warner c Farhat b Asif 24 Michael Clarke c Alam b Gul 32 Michael Hussey not out 40 Cameron White run out (Alam) 4 Travis Birt b Shoaib Malik 1 Brad Haddin st K Akmal b Malik 1 Steven Smith b N-ul-Hasan 8 Michael Johnson c K Akmal b Gul 2 Dirk Nannes run out (U Akmal/ Ajmal) 4 Shaun Tait c Alam b Gul 1 Extras (2 w) 2 Total (all out, 18.4 overs) 127 Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-54, 3-68, 4-77, 5-78, 6-81, 7-102, 8-106, 9-119 Bowling Mohammad Asif 4-0-31-1 Naved-ul-Hasan 4-0-27-1 Shoaib Malik 4-0-31-2 (1w) Umar Gul 3.4-0-20-3 (1w) Saeed Ajmal 3-0-18-0 Pakistan Imran Farhat c Watson b Tait 8 Imran Nazir run out (Johnson) 0 Kamran Akmal c Hussey b Tait 64 Khalid Latif lbw b Watson 6 Shoaib Malik c Birt b Tait 3 Umar Akmal c Warner b Watson 21 Fawad Alam c White b Smith 1 Naved-ul-Hasan st Haddin b Smith 1 Umar Gul b Nannes 10 Saeed Ajmal not out 1 Mohammad Asif not out 5 Extras (3 lb, 2 w) 5 Total (9 wickets, 20 overs) 125 Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-10, 3-44, 4-59, 5-98, 6-103, 7-107, 8-118, 9-118 Bowling: Shaun Tait 4-0-13-3 (1w) Dirk Nannes 4-1-27-1 Michael Johnson 4-1-24-0 (1w) Shane Watson 4-1-24-2 Steven Smith 4-0-34-2