If Pakistan are a confidence team, their Twenty20 efforts over the past two days augur well for next week's first Test. A day after they ended their 12-match losing stretch against Australia across all formats, Mohammad Aamer helped them begin their own winning streak with an 11-run victory that brought 2-0 series triumph. Tests are a very different story, but their Twenty20 form has given the group a spark.
There was a distinct sense of d j vu after Monday's game; again there was a big crowd of Pakistan fans, again Pakistan scored around the 160 mark and again Australia's batsmen were tied down and couldn't lift their tempo for a successful chase. The last pair was left needing 19 from the final over and despite a six from Dirk Nannes, they came up short.
Aamer made important late runs and then removed Australia's openers, but Pakistan had useful contributions from all their key men. Shahid Afridi made a quick 18 and grabbed two wickets, Kamran Akmal, Salman Butt and Umar Akmal all chipped in at the top of the order, and Shoaib Akhtar and Saeed Ajmal were hard to get away.
The Rawalpindi Express was out of steam on Monday but had gained momentum 24 hours later. Akhtar has been driving around Birmingham in a red Ferrari over the past few days and perhaps the speedy number inspired him, for he was comfortably the quickest bowler in the match and hovered around 95mph.
A couple of sizzling bouncers whizzed past the faces of Australian batsmen but the only man to fall to Akhtar was Tim Paine, who skewed an ugly swipe to mid-off. Akhtar had begun by conceding a pair of fours in his opening over as Michael Clarke showed the sort of Twenty20 form he has not displayed in recent times.
Australia had rested Shane Watson, so Clarke took it upon himself to open the innings, finding the gaps and clearing the infield several times with well-judged chips and drives. Clarke had motored to 30 from 17 deliveries when he played on to Aamer, and the bowler was so pumped at his success that in his follow through he leapt in celebration and crashed into the departing Clarke.
Aamer immediately apologised and the men exchanged a friendly pat on the arm, but Clarke was frustrated with himself for failing to push on. It was Aamer's second wicket - he had already trapped David Warner lbw for 1 - and he went on to finish with 3 for 27. James Hopes (30) and David Hussey (33) worked the ball around through the middle overs but boundaries were few and far between, and too much work was left too late.
Australia had set themselves a task by allowing Pakistan to reach almost the same score as won them the game on Monday. A late 20 not out from Aamer was especially valuable and included a pair of sixes off the debutant spinner Steve O'Keefe and David Hussey. The spinners bowled well, and O'Keefe finished with 3 for 29, which was an impressive return for a man who hadn't played a Twenty20 for his state for nearly 18 months.
Afridi and Umar Akmal provided a key partnership for Pakistan; their 30-run stand included one monstrous six from Afridi, who slapped Shaun Tait straight back over the bowler's head. The ball cleared the construction area, put a cameraman at risk, and exited the stadium to the roars of the Pakistan fans.
Nannes (3 for 30) collected them both in consecutive balls in the 17th over, Umar (25) caught and bowled when his top edge flew so high that almost any member of the infield could have run in and claimed it, and Afridi caught behind for 18. Already, Butt and Kamran Akmal had given them a strong start with a 61-run combination.
The left-arm spinner O'Keefe struck in his first over when Butt top-edged a sweep and was caught at short fine leg for 31. Kamran followed soon afterwards for 33 when he skied a pull off Mitchell Johnson and was caught by Clarke running back at midwicket. O'Keefe had helped give Australia a way into the middle order, but they couldn't make it count.
If Pakistan were surprised by the selection of O'Keefe, they must have been even more taken aback at Clarke's choice of opening bowler. David Hussey sent down the first over - the first time Australia had opened with a spinner in a Twenty20 international - and it was a success, a wicket-maiden that included Shahzaib Hasan lbw trying to slog-sweep.
The day began in triumph for Australia; it ended in jubilation for Pakistan. It has also set the scene for a fascinating Test series.