Mohammad Amir returns to the pavilion after his dismissal during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Australia and Pakistan at The County Ground in Taunton. ─ AFP
Home Sports Reigning champs Australia beat Pakistan by 41 runs in nail-biter at Taunton
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Reigning champs Australia beat Pakistan by 41 runs in nail-biter at Taunton

Australia beat Pakistan by 41 runs in a nail-biting finish at Taunton on Wednesday in the 17th match of the World Cup.

David Warner, who hit his first international century following his return from a ball-tampering ban, was named Man of the Match.

Pakistan won the toss in overcast conditions and put Australia in to bat first. The defending champions were dismissed for 307 in 39 overs.

They bowled Pakistan out for 266 in 45.4 overs. The green shirts were left floundering after the rapid fall of bottom-order wickets.

Left-arm quick Mohammad Amir took a career-best five for 30 in the Australia innings, becoming the highest wicket-taker in the tournament so far.

Australia looked set for a huge total in Taunton while David Warner and captain Aaron Finch (82) shared a first-wicket stand of 146 ─ the highest partnership for any wicket at this World Cup to date.

But Amir dragged Pakistan back into the game, returning figures that surpassed his previous best of 4-28 and are the best in the World Cup so far.

Warner posted his first international century since returning from a 12-month ban before Pakistan rallied to dismiss the defending World Cup champions for 307.

“I think I left a few (runs) out there,” Warner admitted during the break between innings. “The second spell from Mohammad Amir was fantastic. We have got to come out and bowl Test match line and length and be very disciplined.”

Both Warner and Steve Smith ─ also returning from a year-long ban for ball-tampering ─ had been jeered by fans in previous games but Pakistani fans largely heeded an appeal from captain Sarfaraz Ahmed not to boo the pair, preferring to roar chants of “Amir!, Amir!”.

Amir was on target right from the start with a probing maiden ─ one of two in an initial four-over spell that cost a mere 11 runs.

The left-armer’s outstanding attack saw him pick up a career-best five-wicket haul in ODIs. According to cricket statistician Mazher Arshad, Amir’s 5-30 are the best bowling figures for Pakistan in a World Cup match against a Test playing team.

According to the Pakistan Cricket Board, his performance has made him the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.

The Aussies maintained a steady strike rate throughout their innings despite the quick fall of middle-order wickets following the termination of the opening partnership. Finch tried to smash Amir for a boundary but got caught out by Mohammad Hafeez in the 23rd over with 82 runs.

He was succeeded by Smith. Asif Ali caught Smith out for 10 off a delivery from Hafeez in the 29th over. His successor, Glenn Maxwell, was bowled by Shaheen Shah Afridi, who then went onto take Warner’s all-important wicket in the 38th over after a century came up for the Aussie batsman.

Warner edged between wicketkeeper and slip for a boundary and took off to punch the air to celebrate his first century since returning to Australia’s team following his ban. He stroked 11 boundaries and a six from 102 balls to reach his hundred in the 36th over of the match.

Warner was booed by the crowd in each of his previous appearances at the World Cup, and was under pressure despite scoring runs because his unbeaten 89 against Afghanistan, his three against West Indies and his 56 against India all came at an uncharacteristically slow run-rate.

He was only jeered by the heavily pro-Pakistan crowd when he was dropped cold by Asif at third man on 104, but that was more likely frustration at yet another fielding error by the green shirts.

Amir struck again in the 43rd over, getting Usman Khawaja to send a drive straight to Wahab Riaz on the circle at mid-off. Two overs later, he had Shaun Marsh caught at long off by Shoaib Malik.

Shortly after, Sarfaraz caught Coulter-Nile off a delivery from Wahab in the 47th over. In the next over, Hassan Ali got PJ Cummins out. Hassan’s short ball caught Cummins by surprise. The pace was too much, and it was an easy catch for Sarfaraz.

Amir took two more wickets in the 49th over ─ Alex Carey on LBW and Mitchell Starc caught by Shoaib ─ taking his total in the match to 5 scalps ─ a career-best, and the highest so far in the tournament.

Pakistan, who have been trying to shake their ‘unpredictable’ tag, kept things interesting for spectators until the very end.

The early loss of top order wickets meant the innings got off to a shaky start.

Opener Fakhar Zaman was sent back to the pavilion in the second over without any runs after he drove a ball straight into Kane Richardson’s hands at third man.

His partner, Imamul Haq (53), struck up a partnership with Babar Azam (30) that saw the green shirts’ run rate inching upwards, but it didn’t last long. Azam was sent packing in the 11th over by Richardson who caught him at fine leg. Azam’s dimissal was the 50th ODI wicket for Coulter-Nile.

Imam then partnered with Mohammad Hafeez (46) and settled into a comfortable rhythm that yielded a solid 80 runs. But Pat Cummins put an end to it when he got Imam to smack one down leg side right into Alex Carey’s waiting hands in the 26th over.

It looked like the game was all but over as, one over later, Hafeez was caught out by Mitchell Starc. Shoaib Malik, who came out to bat after him, was caught out after facing just two deliveries. Asif Ali managed to hang on for a couple of overs before being dismissed for five runs in the 30th over.

But then skipper Sarfaraz came out onto the field and was able to provide some much-needed stability for his side. His partnership with Hasan Ali (32) was ended by Usman Khawaja in the 34th over, who got Hasan to send Richardson a catch at fine leg.

And then Wahab Riaz got Pakistan back in the game. He sent the ball flying every which way on the pitch. The flurry of boundaries and almost-boundaries ─ apart from giving him a solid 45 runs off 39 deliveries ─ turned the heat back onto the defending champs, who started looking a bit worried as the stands cheered each run the men in green posted on the scoreboard.

He was taken out by Starc in the 45th over. Finch called for the DRS at the last moment, and a review showed hint of contact between Wahab’s bat and the ball as it made its way into Carey’s hands.

Disappointingly, Amir was bowled out in the same over. And just like that, Pakistan’s hopes for a win started fading.

Nine wickets down, with 42 runs needed from 30 balls, and Shaheen Shah Afridi facing three dot balls, Sarfraz ─ and Pakistani cricket fans ─ were desperate. It ended with the skipper getting stumped by Maxwell.

Pakistan wore black armbands as a mark of respect for former international cricketer Akhtar Sarfaraz and umpire Riazuddin, both of whom passed away recently. readers had little faith in the green shirts with just 26.1% voting for Pakistan when asked who would win today’s match.

54.95% or over 7,100 readers believe Australia will win, while 18.95% thought rain would win.

During the Australia innings, more readers thought rain had a better chance of winning the match than Pakistan.

Skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed decided to give his bowlers first use of a green-tinged pitch under overcast skies.

Australia were sent in to bat first by Pakistan.

Commenting on his choice to bowl first, Sarfaraz said: “A bit of grass, looks like a green pitch, with a bit of moisture.”

“Unfortunately we didn’t play the last game, but worked hard with lots of practice,” he added.

Aaron Finch, the Australian captain said that he would have chosen to bowl first too.

Reigning champions Australia are looking to bounce back from a 36-run loss to India ─ their first defeat of this World Cup ─ with Pakistan keen to build on a win over England after their last group match, against Sri Lanka, was washed out.

Five-time champions Australia swept Pakistan 5-0 in an ODI in March, and have won 14 of the last 15 head-to-head encounters. But they are coming off their loss to India, and the absence of injured allrounder Marcus Stoinis will enforce a lineup change.

Pakistan is coming off a confidence-boosting win over top-ranked England, which ended a run of 11 ODI losses.

Zampa sits out, as does Nathan Lyon.

Shadab rests for Pakistan, while Shaheen Afridi comes in.

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