Pakistan v Australia, 2nd ODI, Abu Dhabi
Jamshed and Ajmal help Pakistan level series
Pakistan 249 for 3 (Jamshed 97, Azhar 59*) beat Australia 248 for 9 (M Hussey 61, Ajmal 4-32, Junaid 3-52) by 7 wickets
Nasir Jamshed batted across two months to deliver Pakistan a series-levelling victory in Abu Dhabi, where the extreme humidity left Australia's players dripping, and in some cases dropping, by the time the match finally finished at 2.27am local time. Despite being confounded by Saeed Ajmal again, Australia's batsmen posted a reasonable total of 248 for 9, but Jamshed and Azhar Ali helped Pakistan secure a seven-wicket win that meant the series would be decided in the final match.
Jamshed fell just short of a century, lobbing a catch to mid-off when he had 97 and Pakistan needed a further 82 runs, but Azhar and the captain Misbah-ul-Haq ensured Jamshed's fine work was not wasted. Facing Mitchell Johnson after 2am should be a daunting prospect but the humidity appeared to sap Australia's bowlers of all their energy - at one point Mitchell Starc hunched over and left the field exhausted during his over - and Azhar and Misbah were able to cruise to the target with 38 balls to spare.
Azhar finished unbeaten on 59 and Misbah on 35 and for them as well as the Australians, this match, which started at 6pm on August 31 and ended well into September 1, was a feat of endurance. The outfield was so dewy that the Australians all carried large towels in the back of their trousers as if they were off to a sauna, but in fact they were already in one. The bowlers struggled to grip the wet balls and Michael Clarke was left wondering why on earth he chose to bat first.
But none of that can take away from the performance of Jamshed, who batted in a helmet for 98 balls in those same conditions, and scored at a run a ball. Jamshed found runs all around the ground, forcing off the back foot through the off side, finding the gaps through - or over - the leg-side fieldsman, and later in his innings he sought to drive in the air down the ground.
His half-century came up off 59 balls and with solid support first from Mohammad Hafeez and then from Azhar, it gave Pakistan precisely the start they needed. The Australians thought they had Jamshed in the second over of the innings when he was adjudged lbw to James Pattinson, but the batsman asked for a review and replays showed the ball had pitched outside leg stump.
The opening stand ended at 66 when Hafeez pulled a short ball from Daniel Christian straight to Michael Hussey at deep midwicket for 23. The shot was timed sweetly but didn't have the elevation Hafeez wanted, though a pair of similar pulls from Jamshed off Christian did have the height and cleared the boundary.
Eventually it was Johnson who got rid of Jamshed and Pattinson picked up a wicket when he bowled Asad Shafiq for 9, but Pakistan were never in serious danger after the strong start from the openers. At the halfway point of the match the target looked like it would be a real challenge, and the Australians had Michael Hussey to thank for getting them to 248 as Ajmal again caused problems throughout the top and middle order.
Pakistan did not help themselves in the field, dropping catches and missing run outs, and it could have been worse had the Australians capitalised more on the five free hits given up due to no-balls from Sohail Tanvir. It was left largely to Ajmal to keep Australia in check and he was not only dangerous but also economical, slowing the scoring rate towards the end after removing Hussey for 61 and the dangerous Glenn Maxwell for 28.
Ajmal finished with 4 for 32 after he picked up both Hussey and Maxwell in the same over, Hussey bowled attempting a tired slog and Maxwell advancing down the pitch, missing the doosra and finding himself stumped by a matter of metres. But Hussey and Maxwell had done their job, continuing the rebuild started by Hussey and George Bailey after the top order wobbled to 87 for 4.
Maxwell launched two consecutive sixes off Abdur Rehman, one a slog sweep and the other a drive over long-on, and that was followed by six more from the next delivery when Hussey pulled a short ball from Junaid Khan. As usual, Hussey was good at finding the gaps and rotating the strike, and he brought up his half-century from 59 balls.
Maxwell helped keep the scoreboard ticking over, although he should have been caught on 21 when he top-edged a slog sweep off an Ajmal doosra and was put down by Asad Shafiq running in from deep midwicket; the ball had sailed so high the batsmen were able to run two. Maxwell had come to the crease after Bailey departed for 39 from 46 balls when he pushed a catch back to the bowler Rehman.
But Bailey, through a calm 66-run stand with Hussey, had played a key role in Australia's recovery after the top order struggled against the spin of Ajmal and Hafeez. After the early loss of Matthew Wade, Michael Clarke and an unconvincing David Warner moved the score along to 74 for 1 before three quick wickets set back their progress.
Warner, who never looked comfortable and had taken 19 deliveries to get off the mark, was lbw playing back to Ajmal and looked almost relieved that his ordeal was over. Clarke followed soon after, lbw to Hafeez for 37 and David Hussey was lbw to Ajmal for a duck shortly afterwards.
It was a shaky period for the Australians, who had rebuilt after the early loss of Wade, who drove at a wide ball from Junaid and played on for 7, one ball after he was dropped by Umar Akmal at point. Junaid returned in the dying overs to pick up two late wickets and finished with 3 for 52, but this night belonged to Ajmal and Jamshed.