It wasn’t a traditional Twenty20 innings but Steve Smith delivered a classical captain’s knock to revive Australia’s hopes of winning a tournament they never have.
Smith’s unbeaten 61 powered Australia to a total of 4-193 and a 21-run win over Pakistan in Friday’s World Twenty20 clash in Chandigarh.
The result means Australia’s final pool game against India, which starts at 1am AEDT on Monday, will effectively be a quarter-final.
The winner advances to a semi-final, while the loser will be eliminated.
Smith only struck seven boundaries but brought up his half-century in 35 balls and finished with a strike-rate of almost 150.
“Steve batted exceptionally well today but I am not surprised. I have seen him play T20 over here in the IPL and he does that all the time,” allrounder James Faulkner said.
“He was a class act.
“After losing the first two wickets it was beautiful timing to get a bit of a platform.”
The 26-year-old was under immense pressure, with a loss likely to have ended his side’s World T20 title hopes.
Australia, having suffered middle-overs collapses of 6-57 and 4-22 in their previous two World T20 matches, slipped to 3-57 against Pakistan before Smith steadied.
“We had a massive focus on batting through the middle and obviously here in India it is something you really need to nail,” Faulkner said.
“To keep some wickets in the shed for the last four, five or six overs.”
Shane Watson was the man to prosper from the platform laid by Smith and Glenn Maxwell, clubbing three sixes in an entertaining knock of 44 not out.
It was the first major score of the tournament for both Smith and Watson, who shuffled down to No.6 in a new-look batting order.
“People see figures. Yeah he (Smith) missed out the first couple of games but at the same time, every time he walks into the nets he hits the ball exactly the same,” Faulkner said.
“That’s the same with Shane, he missed out in the first couple games but he came off a hundred (in a T20 against India in January).
“Coming in when he did, under the pump, to hit the ball from from ball one was exceptional … it’s no surprise he whacked it tonight.”