ABU DHABI - Aaron Finch was 10 runs shy of making history, but his bigger concern will be Australia pulling up a few short of what they had aimed to post to feel confident of keeping Pakistan at bay. It was the captain who held up one end for most of the innings, even though he holed out for 90 off 136, thus missing out on becoming the first Australian to score hundreds in three consecutive ODIs.

While Glenn Maxwell was at the crease for nearly all of the final 20 overs - exactly when Australia would have wanted him out there - he couldn’t quite find the gears that take him to his destructive best until the final six overs. From that point on, however, he became a severe threat to Pakistan’s hopes, finishing with 71 off 55 balls and ensuring Australia set Pakistan 266, which had looked remarkably unlikely when Finch was dismissed.

The match began about 15 minutes late due to a rare shower in Abu Dhabi, but Usman Shinwari was raring to go. Off just the sixth ball of the innings, he knocked back the off stump of his namesake. Usman Khawaja needed just two runs to surpass Virat Kohli as the highest ODI runscorer this year but a fast, inswinging yorker meant he will have to wait till Dubai to achieve that landmark. Shinwari was Pakistan’s most impressive bowler overall, going at just two per over in his first spell, and the only bowler who looked in control of proceedings towards the end when Maxwell had teed off.

Maxwell hits off 55 balls

Pakistan began well while Australia looked flat to start off. Not long after, the other new inductee into Pakistan’s bowling line-up, Junaid Khan, needed just three balls to make his mark. He got one to rise a touch off a good length and tail into Shaun Marsh, who offered a forward defensive prod. The ball instead took his inside edge and cannoned off his pad into the air, travelling as far as midwicket, where Shan Masood stood to gobble down a simple catch.

That put Australia into rebuilding mode straightaway. Finch was content to nudge and nurdle his way for most of the innings, departing from that policy only when Yasir Shah pitched the ball up to deposit him into the stands behind the sightscreen. Peter Handscomb at the other end was brighter in his approach, beginning by punishing a wayward Mohammad Hasnain with four boundaries in an over. It was another tough day for the 18-year old; he had conceded 16 in that over, and it wouldn’t be his most expensive of the innings. Overall, Shoaib Malik only saw fit to trust him with half his allotted quota, in which he conceded 50 runs, and still awaits his first international wicket.

With the partnership having reached 84, Haris Sohail was the unlikely source of a breakthrough for Pakistan. Unlike Imad Wasim, Haris has the ability to find some spin in the surface, which was all it took to deceive Handscomb, who paid the price for closing the face of the bat. One that drifted and turned took his off stump, bringing to an end a handy 43-ball 47 that had set Australia back out of troubled waters.

Progress was slow and when Marcus Stoinis was castled by Imad, Pakistan would have sniffed a chance to get the lower order in. But Finch and Maxwell held firm, even if it came at the expense of the run rate, and a revision of the total they would aim for. Yasir looked more comfortable, and finished off his spell by snaring Finch in his final over.

It wasn’t until the end of the 44th over that Australia crossed 200, but a costly drop by Imam ul Haq at point that gave Maxwell a reprieve meant the next four overs would be chaotic for Pakistan. As their fielding standards dipped and Maxwell finally hit his straps, Pakistan conceded 47 off the following 24 balls. The carnage by the end would likely have been worse but for a mix-up which saw Mohammad Rizwan hit the stumps to dismiss Maxwell. It quietened down the final two overs, but, as the raindrops began to fall once more as the innings wrapped up, Pakistan were left to ponder if allowing Maxwell to open the floodgates would end up proving costly.

Scorecard

AUSTRALIA:

U Khawaja b Shinwari 0

A Finch c Haris b Yasir 90

S Marsh c Masood b Junaid 14

P Handscomb b Haris 47

M Stoinis b Imad 10

G Maxwell run out 71

A Carey not out 25

P Cummins not out 2

EXTRAS: (lb5, w2) 7

TOTAL: (6 wkts; 50 Overs) 266

FOW: 1-0, 2-20, 3-104, 4-140, 5-188, 6-249

BOWLING: Usman Shinwari 9-2-37-1, M Hasnain 5-0-50-0, Junaid Khan 9-0-58-1, Yasir Shah 10-0-47-1, Imad Wasim 10-0-34-1, Haris Sohail 7-0-35-1

TOSS: Australia

UMPIRES: Asif Yaqoob, Michael Gough

TV UMPIRE: Kumar Dharmasena

MATCH REFEREE: Jeff Crowe