Cameron White finally showed he could be a potent force at home as his muscular century pushed Australia to a five-wicket win in the opening ODI against Pakistan. Over the past six months White has starred in England and India to confirm himself as a key batting figure and he powered the hosts as they over-hauled the target of 275 with nine balls to spare.
It was the first time White, playing his 48th ODI, had passed fifty in Australia and he almost made it to the end before falling for 105 off 88 balls. Australia were uncomfortable after slipping to 3 for 84 with Ricky Ponting’s exit, but White joined with Michael Clarke in settling the nerves and then took on the major responsibility with the vice-captain’s departure.
White is a hulky figure and he peaked with three consecutive sixes off Shahid Afridi between long-on and midwicket in the 41st over that downgraded Australia’s assignment from difficult to comfortable. Afridi is used to dishing out that sort of sequence and did his best to provide the memorable moment of the day with a 26-ball 48, but White made sure it was his fireworks that will be recalled first.
He picked up four sixes and eight fours, including an unorthodox cross-bat down the ground off Rana Naved-ul-Hasan followed by a textbook cover drive in the same over, and added his second century to follow the 105 against England in Southampton in September. He was bowled by Rana trying for another boundary and left to a standing ovation. Michael Hussey, who was unbeaten on 35, finished off the match to earn a 1-0 lead in the five-match series
The result continued Australia’s successful summer and stopped Pakistan, who had been heavily reinforced after the 3-0 Test loss, from gaining any momentum ahead of Sunday’s second game in Sydney. They had chances to contain Australia further in the field following their useful start, but a few run-outs or catches will always be missed by this outfit.
Both Australian openers departed by the ninth over to leave Ponting and Clarke trying to consolidate during a 47-run partnership, but that ended when the battling Ponting (27) drove at Afridi and was taken behind point. Clarke was in much better touch and accumulated cleverly, hitting 40 singles on the way to 58, and put on 102 with White. However, Clarke departed when attempting a quick single only to be beaten at the striker’s end by Rana’s underarm.
Mohammad Aamer was slippery in his opening spell and Shane Watson was so behind in a defensive push on 5 that the ball hit the end of his handle and flew to Saeed Ajmal at mid-on. Aamer followed up by hitting Ponting on the hip and in his second spell stung Clarke’s ribs with a lifter. By the end of the match it was the only lasting pain inflicted on the hosts.
Salman Butt’s 72 put Pakistan on track for a sizeable total and Afridi made sure it happened with a powerful late surge that took them to 274. After winning the toss, the visitors had a series of useful stands over most of the innings but none that dominated the game until Afridi arrived at No. 7.
Australia had fought back from Butt’s display through Watson and Clint McKay, but after the visitors wobbled to 7 for 227 in the 44th over Afridi quickly steadied them. Afridi forced a six to long-off from Nathan Hauritz before pulling Peter Siddle into the stands at midwicket to provide a much-needed boost during the batting Powerplay. He also found three boundaries in a row off McKay before the final delivery of the over went for four legbyes.
After swatting Watson for six to long-on, he was caught at midwicket trying for another clearance and the innings soon ended with Mohammad Asif’s run-out with two balls remaining. Watson finished with a career-best 4 for 36 off 10 while McKay returned 3 for 61 in a mixed bowling display for the Australians, who had less support than usual with the crowd of 19,758 the smallest for an ODI at the ground in 11 years.
Butt added 62 with the recalled Kamran Akmal (34) before joining forces with Younis Khan. He dominated the partnership with Younis, who scored 8 of the 55 for the second wicket, but fell to his 81st ball when he top edged a pull off Doug Bollinger to become one of Haddin’s four catches. Yousuf (2) quickly followed when he played on to a steepling delivery from Bollinger and Pakistan were on the brink of trouble at 3 for 123.
Younis came in for his first match since giving up the captaincy and was struggling with the added intensity on the way to 46. He knew he would get better with time and hung in to be the support partner in stands with Butt, Umar Akmal (23) and Shoaib Malik (28). When he departed pulling McKay to deep square leg the tourists were in trouble. Afridi dug them out briefly before White came of age at home.