DUBAI: In 2010 in St Lucia, it was Michael Hussey who broke Pakistani hearts as he hit three sixes in the final over to take Australia to the World Cup final.
More than a decade later, it was Matthew Wade’s turn to brutally end the Pakistani dream with three consecutive sixes to fire Australia to a date with destiny against New Zealand in Sunday’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Final.
Pakistan had never beaten Australia before in a knockout match at any World Cup. Buoyed on by a partisan Pakistani crowd under the Dubai lights, surely this was their time.
For so long, they were on top. They asked Australia to pull off the highest chase of the tournament by setting a target of 177 and when Shadab Khan picked up his fourth wicket in as many overs to remove Glenn Maxwell, Australia still needed 81 off 46 deliveries.
Only for Marcus Stoinis and Wade to combine magnificently and ensure that they only needed 40 of those — just like New Zealand in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night, they finished the job off remarkably, with an over to spare.
Roared on by a sea of green in the desert, it felt like a home semi-final for Pakistan. Shortly after the national anthems, the imperious opening pair of Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam got about their business, racing to 47 without loss by the end of the powerplay.
Rizwan, courageously coming off the back of two nights in the hospital with a chest infection, picked up a back of the length delivery from Josh Hazlewood with aplomb for the first six of the evening, and despite taking a nasty blow on the helmet from Mitchell Starc, he added three more maximums on his way to 67. It was a fighting knock from a warrior.
Australia desperately needed a breakthrough and it came through the leg-spin of Adam Zampa, tempting Babar with a tossed-up delivery who picked out David Warner at long-on.
For the first time, the ground was silenced. The main man was back in the hutch. But this is a Pakistani side that has relied on performances across the board. The dismissal of Babar, welcomed Fakhar Zaman, who nudged along before teeing off on his way to 55 off 32.
At the interval, Australia knew they would have to pull off the highest chase of the tournament if they wanted to spoil the party.
Never had this tournament felt more alive than when Shaheen raced in with the new ball in hand. The ring of fire felt like a colosseum awaiting the inevitable.
The captain, Aaron Finch, was greeted with a devastating inswinger first up, trapping him in front. Shaheen wheeled away in ecstasy. Finch had started walking before the umpire could even raise his finger. It was a killer delivery.
Mitchell Marsh entered the cauldron and you sensed that Pakistan and Shaheen were going in for the kill. Marsh was welcomed with an unplayable yorker crushing into his toe. The review saved Marsh on the umpire’s call and he was met with another ripper that beat the inside edge. Australia was hurt, but still alive.
And such is the ebb and flow of this format that for all of Pakistan’s electrifying start, the manner in which Warner and Marsh shifted the pressure back on Pakistan was a sign of the experience and the fearlessness that this side possessed.
Warner went 6,4,4 in Imad Wasim’s second over, including a monster strike over deep midwicket, before Marsh welcomed Haris Rauf by crunching him for six more. At 51 for one, it was Australia’s powerplay.
Step forward Shadab, getting Marsh with his second delivery and Steve Smith in his second over. Warner was caught behind the first ball after drinks for a belligerent 49, walking off, despite ultra-edge showing that he would completely miss the ball. And when Maxwell was caught attempting to reverse sweep Shadab, Pakistan were in the driving seat. Shadab finished with four for 26, the best figures by anyone in a T20 World Cup semi-final.
Given the events of Wednesday night, no one could be written off, never mind the Australians. On Thursday, it was the turn of Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade to have their moment.
Both settled in and slowly but surely, the crowd grew nervous. 62 off 30 became 50 off 24 and when Stoinis took Haris Rauf for 13 in the 17th, the chase was well and truly on.
For all the talk about Shaheen and his first over, ultimately it would be his last that would seal the fate of Pakistan. With 22 needed off the final two, Babar called for his prized asset.
They needed a wicket and in the most brutal of circumstances, Hasan Ali dropped Wade in the deep. And Wade ensured that he made the most out of his slice of luck, with a display of immense courage and phenomenal execution as he scooped and smashed Shaheen out of the park off the next three deliveries to send Australia on their way.
“I was a little bit nervous coming into the game and knowing potentially that it could be the last opportunity to represent Australia,” Wade said after the match. “I just wanted to do well and give us an opportunity to win the whole thing.”
With his stunning 41 off 17, the 33-year-old Wade ensured that he will have the chance to play for Australia in a World Cup Final.
It is a tournament that has no doubt saved its very best for last. Two thrilling finishes and two quite stunning run chases. Come Sunday, there will be a new winner of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.