Swing king Mitchell Starc has cashed in on a green-tinged Optus Stadium pitch to help Australia restrict Pakistan to 8-106 in Friday’s T20 series decider in Perth.
Starc snared the key wicket of Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, then skittled the stumps of No.3 Mohammad Rizwan to be on a hattrick in just the third over.
Haris Sohail survived the hattrick ball but the damage was done, with Iftikhar Ahmed (45) Pakistan’s only batsman to make a significant contribution after Australia skipper Aaron Finch won the toss and elected to bowl.
Starc took 2-29 while Kane Richardson snared 3-18 on a bouncy deck that caused the visitors plenty of headaches.
Babar, the world’s No.1 ranked T20 batsman, had always loomed as the danger man after making half-centuries in the opening two matches.
But he tallied just six before being trapped lbw by Starc, with the decision confirmed on review.
Starc’s next ball was a ripsnorter – an inswinger on a good length which went straight through Rizwan’s defences and cannoned into leg stump.
The good times kept coming, with NSW seamer Sean Abbott (2-14) claiming an emotional wicket on return to international cricket.
Abbott, representing Australia for the first time since 2014, fell to his knees and pumped his fists after dismissing Imam Ul Haq with a short-pitched delivery which the opener top-edged to Ben McDermott at midwicket.
Iftikhar set about restoring Pakistan’s innings but quickly ran out of partners, with Ashton Agar’s superb catch to dismiss Imad Wasim exemplifying the hosts’ sharp fielding.
Leading the series 1-0, Australia made two changes, replacing the rested Pat Cummins and spinner Adam Zampa with pace duo Abbott and Billy Stanlake.
Pakistan swung the selection axe, naming two debutants and dropping Fakhar Zaman, Asif Ali, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Irfan.
Victory in Perth would take Australia’s T20 international winning streak to eight games.