Pakistan end Aussie World Cup streak
There were inevitably scares along the way, but Pakistan made it to their target of 177 to inflict a four-wicket win on Australia in Colombo on Saturday.
The result means not only Australia’s first World Cup loss since 1999, when Pakistan got the better of them at Headingley, but it also confirms New Zealand as South Africa’s quarterfinal opponents.
Needing just 177 for victory, it was a safe bet that Pakistan would give their supporters a few worrying moments. At 45/2, 98/4 and then 142/6, an unlikely defeat looked entirely feasible on at least three occasions.
But Umar Akmal (44 not out) and Abdul Razzaq (20 not out) hung on to get Pakistan across the line with plenty of time to spare -- nine overs in fact.
Time was never the issue in this low run chase, but wickets were. Brett Lee was the only big threat in the Australian attack, but he did plenty of damage on his own. He took the first four wickets in two great spells, but couldn’t rediscover the magic with his final burst.
The rest of the bowlers couldn’t produce anything to match Lee’s 4/28 in eight overs, and that ultimately cost Australia the chance to bowl Pakistan out.
A few more runs on the board would have made this an even more intriguing game, but a lethargic Australia fell victim to some ultra-sharp Pakistan bowling and fielding after they chose to bat earlier in the day.
Shahid Afridi’s men bowled Australia out for 176 in just 46.4 overs. It was the first time since 1999 that the Aussies had been bowled out in a World Cup match.
There was always a good chance Pakistan would turn up at their dangerous best for this match against the defending champions, and that’s exactly how it unfolded in the Australian innings.
The lamentable wicketkeeping of Kamran Akmal and the patchy fielding of earlier games was hard to find today, as Akmal pouched three catches and played his part in a run-out. The fielders showed tremendous intensity and all afternoon Australia struggled to get it past the inner ring.
A curiously subdued Australia went without a single boundary from the 27th to the 43rd over, and that kind of pressure inevitably led to regular wickets. Four men went back to the hut during that lean spell, which in turn left the tail needing to keep half an eye on merely batting 50 overs.
The lower order were unable to do even that, as Australia eventually succumbed with 3.2 overs still to be bowled.
Ricky Ponting’s side got off to a bad start when the in-form Shane Watson edged Gul onto his stumps in the fifth over, but a careful second-wicket stand between Ponting and Brad Haddin appeared to have restored some order as they reached 75/1 in the 19th over.
Once Mohammad Hafeez had Ponting caught behind for an uncertain innings of 19, though, it was downhill all the way for Australia. The boundaries dried up, wickets kept on falling and the defending champions couldn’t even add another 100 runs after Ponting left the crease.
Only Haddin and Michael Clarke made useful contributions, but both were too small and too slow. Haddin made a leisurely 42 from 80, and Clarke 34 from 48.
Full credit had to go to the Pakistan bowlers. Every one of them played a role, all except Wahab Riaz going for less than four an over as the field backed them up exceptionally well. And even though Riaz went for 39 in his six overs, he grabbed the important wicket of top-scorer Haddin.
Razzaq was possibly the pick with 2/8 from four key overs in the middle of the innings, including that of Clarke. But Gul’s 3/30 was also an outstanding effort as he made the initial breakthrough and then cleaned up the tail.
"We made some good plans against these guys and I think the boys all stuck to the plans," said Pakistan skipper Afridi.
"This victory was very, very important for us to keep a good position in the group and I think you can imagine now how we will play the quarterfinal with good positive body language."
Australia captain Ponting pinpointed his team's fragile batting as the crucial factor in defeat.
"We certainly got a tough game. We didn't do ourselves any favours. I thought our batting effort was deeply ordinary," he said.
Australia – Brad Haddin (wk), Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Cameron White, Mike Hussey, Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Jason Krejza, Shaun Tait
Pakistan – Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal(wk), Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi (capt), Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz