Pakistan revel in short format

Twenty20 cricket seems to be the perfect format for Pakistan.

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DUBAI // Twenty20 cricket seems to be the perfect format for Pakistan. The temperamental side have always played the game with a brazenness that is typical of cricket's shortest version today. Javed Miandad's epic last-ball six against India in Sharjah, Shahid Afridi's amazing 37-ball century in Nairobi or Salim Malik's 72 not out from 36 balls in Kolkata are but just a few instances of those mad moments. So it is not entirely surprising that Pakistan have the best record in Twenty20 among all nations.

In 17 games, they have lost just three and they cruised to their 13th win on Thursday night, humbling the Australians by seven wickets at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. This was their second win in as many matches over the Australians. Umar Gul missed the best bowling figures in the format by one run as he demolished the Australians with four wickets for eight runs. Afridi chipped in with three for 14 and Kamran Akmal stroked a faultless unbeaten 59 to bring joy to the packed stadium.

The win, coming before next month's World Twenty20 in England, augurs well for Pakistan, who missed out in the final last time after Misbah-ul-Haq's outrageous paddle-scoop left his team five short against India. Misbah, the captain on Thursday night after Younus Khan suffered a bout of viral fever, said: "I think this win is a great boost for us before the T20 World Cup. To win against one of the best teams in the world is really good for the spirit of our team."

Pakistan have played little international cricket in recent times, but Misbah believed his team will be favourites in England alongside defending champions India and the South Africans. "It is not just this win," he said. "If you see the last T20 World Cup, India and Pakistan performed really well. People were not expecting us to do so well on South African pitches. But we outclassed all the teams and played the finals.

"Since then, both teams have played very well in every T20 match. That is why I think both teams have a good chance and hopefully we will do well again." Three Australians, who were hoping to get some more match practice and money as well in the Indian Premier League, had more disappointment after Cricket Australia refused them permission on fitness grounds. Shane Watson is almost certain to miss out on joining Rajasthan Royals' defence after his injury curse struck again.

The all-rounder excelled with the bat as Australia won the one-day series in the UAE, but he did not bowl a ball as he continued his recuperation from a long-term injury lay-off. His comeback was derailed as he suffered a groin strain on Thursday night and is now unlikely to play again before Australia depart for the World Twenty20 in England next month. The team doctor Trefor James also asked Nathan Bracken and James Hopes to stand down from joining the Bangalore Royal Challengers and Kings XI Punjab respectively. However, Andrew Symonds, Brett Lee and David Hussey got the nod to fly to South Africa.

Watson's woes were compounded after he was docked 25 per cent of his match fees for showing dissent when he was given out by Aleem Dar off Gul's bowling. Brad Haddin, who was captaining Australia for just the second time in the absence of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, also suffered a miserable evening. His frustrations got the better of him when Symonds was given out lbw to the first-ball he received from Shahid Afridi.

Haddin, who had already been irked by the contentious decision that ended Watson's early cameo, waved his bat in anger at the umpire, Zameer Haider, claiming the ball had clipped the inside edge of Symonds's bat before hitting his front pad. He was fined 15 per cent of his match fee for breaching the ICC code of conduct. Jeff Crowe, the match referee who decided on the penalties, said: "Both players immediately pleaded guilty to the charges and were very apologetic about their actions." Scorecard, s12-13