World T20: Australia Beats Pakistan By 21 Runs

26/03/2016 6:29 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
MONEY SHARMA via Getty Images
Australia's James Faulkner (L) celebrates with teammates after bowling out Pakistan's Sharjeel Khan during the World T20 cricket tournament match between Australia and Pakistan at The Punjab Cricket Stadium Association Stadium in Mohali on March 25, 2016. / AFP / MONEY SHARMA (Photo credit should read MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Got there. It looked dicey for a few moments, but Australia is still alive in the World T20, the only major cricket tournament we've never won.

Australia now faces India in a must-win match early Monday morning (AEST), but we're all entitled to feel quietly confident after a performance which suggested this team is finally finding its groove.

Shane Watson announced his retirement from international cricket today. He has played 56 of Australia's 87 matches in the newest, shortest format of the game, and has long been one of our best. Watson showed why he'd been so valuable with a brutal 44 not out off just 21 balls. But it was another all-rounder in James Faulkner who made the difference with five wickets that sealed Pakistan's early exit from the tournament.

Australia batted well. But this was a good pitch and we had to. Usman Khawaja made a typically fluent and breezy 21 and Glenn Maxwell a classy 30 off 18. In previous matches, no one had kicked on from those sort of scores to bigger things. But Watson and Steve Smith put on an unbeaten 74 run partnership off 38 balls to lead Australia to a score of 4 for 193. Smith made 61 not out off 43 balls. It was exactly the sort of cricket we've been lacking.

Pakistan looked dangerous at times in reply, especially early on when opener Sharjeel Khan was swatting boundaries like flies. The pitch was playing truly and the outfield was as fast as bitumen. Enter James Faulkner, who clean-bowled the feisty opener in the sixth over.

Pakistan threatened again through their veteran skipper Shahid Afridi, but when he went, you sensed it was all over. The man who removed him was Adam Zampa, the Australian leg spinner who had taken no international T20 wickets before this tournament, but who looks increasingly confident and dangerous every time he arrives at the crease.

Zampa bowled the dangerous Umar Akmal around his legs, then pushed a quicker one through against Afridi which the skipper missed. He was out stumped.

After that, it was Faulkner time. Best known as a finisher with the bat, Faulkner also possesses a deft change of pace which has made him Australia's go-to bowler at the death. The 25-year-old Tasmanian is a seasoned cricketer these days who may yet stake a serious claim for Mitchell Marsh's Test all-rounder's spot.

But that's a matter for the future. Of immediate concern is Monday morning's match against India. Whoever wins that makes the semis. Whoever loses is out. Australia still must improve. Dave Warner seems out of form and Nathan Coulter-Nile bowls a bit too much loose stuff. But we know more about our best line-up than we did a week ago.

We also know that India was incredibly lucky to squeak past Bangladesh earlier this week, and seems to be feeling the pressure of playing before boisterous home crowds. All will be revealed Monday.

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