Hussey does a Houdini

Free-Hit Contributor Dilan Gunasekara

GROS ISLET, SAINT LUCIA - MAY 14: Michael Hussey of Australia celebrates prior to the end of the ICC World Twenty20 semi final between Australia and Pakistan at the Beausjour Cricket Ground on May 14, 2010 in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

In the semi finals of the 2010 T20 World Cup in the West Indies at Gros Islet, an Australian batter performed a “Houdini Act” and pulled off an improbable heist, carrying his team to the Final of the tournament.

         Australia won the toss and without hesitation invited Pakistan to take first lease of the wicket . The Pakistani opening pair Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt went all guns blazing and accumulated a quick-fire 82 runs inside nine overs for the first wicket. A good tumbling catch by David Warner sent Kamran Akmal packing after playing a mini-blinder of 50 runs from 34 balls which included some crispy drives and thumping pull shots. “One brings two” is one of the famous idioms in cricket and it was again proven, as with his canny leg spin, Steve Smith accounted for the other opening partner, Salmat Butt for 32 runs off 30 deliveries. Guess who caught the ball, it was David Warner again.

          Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi decided to promote himself up the order and came into bat at No. 4 to up the ante. The Australian bowlers stemmed the flow of runs and snuck in some tight overs despite the presence of Umar Akmal and Afridi at the crease. In the second delivery of the 14th over, Afridi decided to launch but his ugly hoick was gleefully accepted by Brad Haddin behind the stumps. It was a big moment in the match as Afridi scored only 8 runs from 9 deliveries, very uncharacteristic of him. On the other hand, Akmal went berserk and scored a spell binding knock of 56 runs from 35 deliveries which included two fours and four lusty half a dozens, an innings, which injected much needed impetus to the Pakistani innings. Khalid Lathif and Senior pro, Abdul Razzaq played some handy cameos as the men in green finished with 191. In the last four overs, they ransacked a mouth-watering 59 runs.

The Gross Islet surface had offered grip, turn and bounce to the slow bowlers, so a chase of 192 against the likes of  Saeed Ajmal, Mohammed Amir and Shahid Afridi was certainly not going to be a cakewalk for Australians.

           David Warner and Shane Watson, one of the most explosive batting pairs in the world, came out for Australia but with just the second delivery of the Australian innings, Amir removed Warner for duck. When the score was 26, Amir netted the other big fish, Shane Watson.

Skipper Clarke joined Haddin for the third wicket and they added handy 32 runs but both batters were dismissed inside two overs and Australia were reeling at 62 for 4 in the eighth over.

         David Hussey and Cameron White stitched together an another invaluable 43-run partnership for the fifth wicket before the former was caught and bowled by spinner Abdur Rehman.

With the score on 105 for 5 in 12.3 overs, Mike Hussey joined White at the crease, Australia requiring 87 runs from 45 balls. White, one of the most destructive batting forces in the game at the time, decided to attack. First he brought out his jail-break shot, a violent slog sweep.

White bent his knees and sent it clattering towards the mid wicket boundary against Afridi twice. Afridi quickly withdrew himself from the firing line and handed the ball to Mohammed Hafeez. But the result was the same.

Mike Hussey joined the party as he took apart Afridi with two gigantic sixes off the leg spinner. Afridi conceded 14 runs off the 16th over and the game suddenly came back to life. At that juncture, Australia needed another 56 runs from 24 legitimate deliveries.

           Amir delivered a vital blow and turned the game on its head in favour of Pakistan as he removed White in the 17th over. Though new batter, Steve Smith hit a leg glance to perfection for four, Amir gave away only 8 runs off the 17th over.

With 48 runs needed in 18 balls the game was definitely looking to be going Pakistan’s way. But Hussey had other ideas. Ajmal removed Smith in the 18th over, conceding 14 runs, slightly below the required rate.

The very first ball of the penultimate over by Amir saw Hussey paddle over square to collect a much-needed boundary. In the last ball of the same over, Hussey hammered another pressure-easing boundary to finish-off the over in grand fashion. Amir gave away 14 runs, giving Ajmal had 18 runs to defend in the last over.

Mitchell Johnson took an easy single and wisely handed over the strike to Hussey, giving him 5 deliveries to get 17 runs. Hussey started with an absolutely wallop which soared over squad leg for a huge six. Ajmal was under enormous pressure and he dropped the next one short. Hussey said “thank you very much” and went down on one knee and clobbered it high and handsome over long on for back to back maximums, bringing down the equation to five runs off three balls.

Ajmal then bowled a very wide delivery to keep the ball away from Hussey’s arc. But Hussey had it all figured out, cutting him backward of square for 4 to tie things up. He finished things off in style clearing his front leg and sending the next delivery to the boundary line like a tracy bullet.

With that game-clinching blow, Hussey was left unbeaten on 60 runs from 24 balls with 3 fours and six cracking half a dozens.

During the post-match presentation , Australian skipper Clarke described Hussey as an “absolute freak”.  Hussey’s innings is regarded as one of the greatest innings ever played by a batter in T20 history.

Windies legend Sir Vivian Richards once said, “Champions deliver when it matters most”, and Hussey did it when everything was on the line for his team.