Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, August 13, 2022 – Pakistan, making their debut appearance in this topflight competition, clawed their way back to beat Australia in exhausting five sets 21-25, 25-16, 17-25,25-23, 15-6 in their classification round for 5th-8th places in the 2022 AVC Cup for Men at the Nakhon Pathom Provincial Gymnasium on Saturday.
Australia, current world No.39, tried to lift their confidence and form back on track following their upset loss 2-3 to Korea in the previous match. Against Pakistan in this tough-looking encounter, Australia fielded a formidable lineup led by left-hander Matthew Aubrey and Thomas Heptinstall, with the Pakistani defence marshalled by Mazhar Ali and Fahad Raza.
Both teams started an attack right from the whistle to level 15-15 and 19-19 and still fought neck and neck until 21-21 before the Aussies broke away to stay in front with a three-point clear at 24-21. Shortly after that, a soft touch from Australia to the back court went without returning and the Aussies took the opening set 25-21.
The second set turned out to be one-way traffic as Pakistan were well control throughout the set. Taking a five-point lead at 13-8, Pakistan stretched it 22-16, using their impeccable defence from Ahmed Nazir and Abdullah Abdullah and stunning cross-court attacks from Mazhar Ali and Fahad Raza. Pakistan made short work of the Aussies, allowing the rivals no more score to wrap up the comfortable set 25-16.
After losing one set with ease, Australia played more carefully and consistently to lead 6-1 in the third set. Powerful Aubrey brilliantly orchestrated the team’s offence and he kept his team breathing with six points at 22-16. As Pakistan were prone to attacking mistakes, Australia stormed on to win the set 25-17 with the similar fashion.
The fourth set remained a tight contest with both sides playing every part of the game well. It was Pakistan which chased from trailing 4 points at 4-8 to catch up with the Aussies at 12-12 and again 20-20. Australia played more aggressively, with Aubrey and Heptinstall attacking from both wings. Their more aggression was handsomely rewarded as they caught the Pakistanis again at 23-23, but their delight did not last long when Pakistan came back to win the remaining two points for the set 25-23.
The decider saw Australia head coach David Preston replace his best players and instead fielded many substitutions including Sam Flowerday, William D’Arcy-Miles and Nicholas Butler, hoping to turn the tide on his team’s performance. However, Pakistan held firm and scored a five-point lead at 9-4 and never looked back since then. Pakistan captured the one-sided set 15-6 and match.
Following the win, Pakistan will next challenge Iran in the 5th-6th place playoff match, while Australia will take on hosts Thailand in the 7th-8th place playoff.
Fahad Raza and Mazhar Ali scored a match-high 25 points apiece for Pakistan, while Matthew Aubrey led Australia 17 points including 13 attacks and 2 aces.
“We are competing here for the first time in this tournament, Australia are sixth in Asia and they are a good team. We are happy to beat them. We finished 7th in the Asian Championship, but now we are fighting for the 5th place. It means we have improved our ranking in Asia. I would like to thank all spectators, TVA and AVC including its officials and staff to help organise host this tournament,” Pakistan head coach Saeed Ahmed Khan Sady commented after the match.
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