The Big Picture
Australia were crowned the first-ever Over-50s Cricket World Cup champions after an exciting finish saw them defeat Pakistan by three runs in a tense, low-scoring final at the Drummoyne Oval in Sydney on Wednesday.
It was billed as the battle of the two unbeaten sides in the tournament and arguably the two best performed at that, and the final did not disappoint, with the match going right down to the wire.
Set 166 to win, Pakistan seemed destined to fold meekly in pursuit of victory at 94/9. However, Babar Butt and Imtiaz Tarar dug in and frustrated the Australians, combining for the most important partnership of the match. In a finish befitting of a final, and with Pakistan requiring just four runs to win, John Short stepped up to dismiss Butt lbw and spark celebrations in the Australian camp.
Australia stutter against disciplined Pakistani bowling
Earlier in the day, Pakistan won the toss and inserted Australia into bat. Dastagir Butt backed up his good performance with the ball against England in the semi-final with a similar start against the Australians, dismissing Gavin Brown and tournament leading run-scorer and skipper Peter Solway cheaply to have Australia in early trouble at 14/2.
When Tom Ryan fell at 26/3, it was up to Joseph Santostefano and Tony Clark to lead the recovery. The pair put on 68 for the fourth wicket before Tarar provided the key breakthrough, having Santostefano caught for 33 from 55 balls. Clark was dismissed shortly thereafter for a patient 44 off 77 balls and it was left to the rest of the lower order to scrape together runs to get Australia to a competitive enough total.
Jaffar Quereshi mopped up the tail with three wickets as Australia failed to bat out their overs, eventually being bowled out for 165 in 44 overs. Again, as in the semi-final against England, the Pakistani bowlers led by Butt provided the early breakthroughs which forced the Australians to form a recovery. They kept the run-rate in check and frequent breakthroughs never allowed Australia to get away, with 166 measuring up as a more than achievable target to chase in the big final.
Australian bowlers spark top-order collapse
With the initial required rate under four runs per over, Pakistan would have been able to pace the chase with less difficulty at the outset. However, Clark and John Short had other ideas, taking two wickets apiece to get rid of the Pakistani top order, as they were reduced to 38/4.
Butt and skipper Ghaffar Kazmi were then required to start Pakistan's own recovery. They put on 28 for the fifth wicket before a double-blow saw Kazmi run out and Sagheer Abbas caught first ball off William Blair to have Pakistan in strife at 66/6.
From there it got no better for Pakistan after Stephen Gollan picked up his first wicket in a very tight spell before Blair took his second and the key scalp of Butt for 15. Butt to that point had been in the top five run-scorers throughout the tournament. When Javed Hafeez was involved in the second run-out of the innings, Pakistan were 94/9 and one wicket away from handing the title to Australia.
Australia hold nerve to deny valiant Pakistan
However cricket is a strange game and if Australia thought the match was over, Babar Butt and Tarar had other ideas. Butt was the aggressor in the stand of 68, making 46 off 59 balls which included three fours and one six. Tarar, batting at number eleven, supported him in the stand, hitting two boundaries in his unbeaten 28 off 54 balls. The run-rate was in Pakistan's favour as they approached the target with positive intent, keeping the Australian attack at bay.
With the score at 162/9 though, and just as they were only a boundary away from victory, Australia made the decisive blow when Short dismissed Butt to seal a sensational three-run win; a triumph for Australia and heartbreak for Pakistan in the same moment. Short led the charge with his three wickets whilst Clark and Blair finished with two apiece.
It brought the curtain down on what been a fantastic tournament played in great spirit and the right etiquette befitting of the game itself. The concept of an Over-50 World Cup and the various leagues played in Australia and England at this age-group sends encouraging, positive signs about being active and the benefits that doing so can bring. New friendships were made and consolidated over the tournament, not to mention the stories of yesteryear that were shared.
With the inaugural tournament having concluded today, it was announced the next tournament will be held in Cape Town, South Africa in March 2020.
Australia - 165 all out in 44 overs (Clark 44, Santostefano 33, Quereshi 3/25, D Butt 2/18) beat Pakistan - 162 all out in 42.4 overs (B Butt 46, Tarar 28*, Short 3/27, Blair 2/33, Clark 2/34) by three runs
South Africa - 128 all out in 45 overs (Marx 40, Meeser 22, Gibson 4/32, Rajadurai 2/16, Ahmad 2/23) lost to Canada - 129/4 in 31.1 overs (Singh 58*, Jayasekera 39, Moore 4/34) by six wickets
Best Batsman: Peter Solway (Australia) - 365 runs at average of 182.50
Best Bowler: Stephen Foster (England) - 18 wickets at average of 7.67
Best Wicket-keeper: Mason Robinson (New Zealand) - six catches and one stumping
Best Fielder: Javed Hafeez (seven catches)
Team of the tournament
- Richard Petrie (New Zealand)
- Sajid Ali (Pakistan)
- Adrian Dale (New Zealand)
- Peter Solway (Australia)
- Steve Maddock (Wales)
- Mason Robinson (New Zealand) (wk)
- Stephen Foster (England)
- Stephen Gollan (Australia)
- Riaan van der Rheede (South Africa)
- Mahmood Ahmad (Canada)
- Jaffar Quereshi (Pakistan)
- Rohan Ismail (Sri Lanka) (12th Man)