Heroic Hussey sends Aussies to final
Mike Hussey produced an astonishing late onslaught to sneak Australia past champions Pakistan and into an ICC World Twenty20 final against England.
Australia had rarely looked likely to better Pakistan’s mammoth 191 for six - but after Hussey hit three sixes and a four from four Saeed Ajmal deliveries, they did so with one ball and three wickets to spare at the Beausejour Stadium in St Lucia.
Hussey’s 60 not out dominated an unbroken stand of 53 with Mitchell Johnson, and made a mockery of expectations after Ajmal began the final over needing only to stop Australia making 18 more runs to carry Pakistan into a third successive final in this competition.
Brothers Kamran and Umar Akmal had each hit fifties to help put Pakistan in an enviably strong position.
But Hussey’s hitting dwarfed Pakistan’s with six sixes and three fours from only 24 balls to take Australia through to an ‘Ashes’ final at the Kensington Oval in Barbados on Sunday.
Australia never quite looked like bettering the same total they had made here against Pakistan in the Australia dismantle Pakistan, or beating the highest tournament run chase by 24 runs - until they actually did it.
Mohammad Aamer had opener David Warner smearing a catch to Umar at point to go for a first-ball duck off the second delivery of the innings.
After Shane Watson had smashed Abdul Razzaq’s first ball for six over deep midwicket in an over which cost 15, the opener picked out long-on for a straightforward catch off Aamer.
Australia hopes rose a little while Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke were sharing a third-wicket stand, and more significantly when Cameron White was together for the fifth and sixth with Husseys David and then Mike.
But Haddin and Clarke were both to go stumped, in successive overs, Kamran quick with his glovework as slow left-armer Abdur Rehman and then Shahid Afridi each got enough turn to beat the outside edge.
White had hoisted a succession of four sixes from seven balls faced off the spinners, but Rehman tricked David Hussey into chipping back a return catch.
With White hitting an Aamer full toss straight into the hands of long-off, and then Steven Smith becoming Kamran’s third stumping victim, it seemed even Mike Hussey - 'Mr Cricket' - surely could not save Australia.
Yet in the end, he proved he had the situation under control throughout.
After Pakistan had lost the toss, Kamran’s 50 - in an opening stand of 82 with Salman Butt - and then his younger brother gave Australia’s attack a caning to rack up the joint second-highest total of the tournament.
They hit six sixes and eight fours between them, Umar, with 56 not out, the quickest to his half-century off only 29 balls as he launched a late onslaught which brought 20 runs off the bat from one Johnson over, and 73 in all from the last five.
The innings began with a maiden from Dirk Nannes, and only three came off Shaun Tait in the next.
But with that reconnaissance served, Pakistan wasted no more time.
The openers had minor slices of luck, chipping just over the in-field on several occasions and Kamran marginally clearing long-off for a six as Steven Smith’s first over cost 15. Another 18 was bludgeoned off Watson in the ninth over.
But two ultra-confident outfield catches by Warner - the first a memorable, diving effort by his boots at deep cover to intercept a searing Kamran drive at Johnson - accounted for both openers in the space of two overs.
Afridi was just winding up when he looped a catch off Hussey’s off-spin, wicketkeeper Haddin holding on despite colliding with Watson as calls went inaudible in the din of a partisan and largely sub-continental crowd.
Those supporters had plenty more to shout about by the time Umar was joined first by Khalid Latif and then Razzaq for some merciless hitting which rattled Australia into conceding extra runs in wides, byes and overthrows.
But 90 minutes or so later, it was the relieved Australians who had the last laugh.