For Australia to be underdogs in a cricket World Cup semi-final is something unheard of.
But when it meets Pakistan in Dubai in the second semi-final of the T20 World Cup on Thursday, it will be the Asian side who will be favourites to progress to the final where New Zealand lies in wait.
Pakistan has won all its five matches in the tournament. Captain Babar Azam sits second on the scorers’ chart. The man-of-the-match awards have been shared and the team has come through several tests on the field.
Australia though has looked less than convincing in its run to the semi-final. But leg-spinner Adam Zampa is second on the wicket-takers’ list – with a five-wicket haul to his name – and the openers are starting to click.
But for either side to reach the last-four is nothing short of remarkable.
Pakistan came into the tournament after having their series against New Zealand and England cancelled. The former pulled out minutes before the start of the first match while the latter withdrew three days later.
Prior to that, three of Pakistan’s four T20 in the West Indies were rained off earlier this week.
But all that counted for nothing as Azam’s men stormed into the semi-finals unbeaten, including a first-ever World Cup win over India who failed to reach the last-four.
Australia lost its last five T20 series coming into the tournament, including in Bangladesh, and looked far from a top-four side.
But Zampa and the three-man pace attack has helped it reach the semi-finals coupled with Warner’s return to form.
“I think you can look at stats [statistics] and you can deep-dive into whether you should be bowling spin or quicks in the powerplay,” said Australia captain Aaron Finch.
It is Pakistan who leads the head-to-head between the two sides, having won 13 of the 23 matches.
The two last met in November 2019, with Australia winning the three-match series 2-0 after rain ruined the opening match.
But in the UAE, Pakistan is a formidable side, unbeaten in 16 T20s here since November 2015. Its last T20 loss to Australia in the UAE came in 2014.
Australia has won all four World Cup knockout matches against Pakistan, including the 2010 T20 World Cup semi-final where Michael Hussey’s late onslaught, especially targeting Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal, helped the side sneak into the final.