Wobbly Oz squeak into semis

2009-10-01 00:00

AUSTRALIA qualified for the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy yesterday by the skin of their teeth, with a tense, final ball triumph over Pakistan.

But for at least half an hour, Centurion was filled with an air of expectancy as already qualified Pakistan decided to make a real game of it.

“We didn’t expect it to be that tight, but we are through to the next stage and are looking forward to facing England [tomorrow],” a relieved Ricky Ponting said.

In truth, it was a poor game of cricket played on a pitch that got progressively lower and slower. But it certainly didn’t lack excitement at the death.

Pakistan skipper Younus Khan accepted the loss with a smile, saying that it would serve as a good wake-up call.

“For sure, it can be a good thing for us,” an upbeat Khan said.

“If you remember South Africa and Sri Lanka in the World20, they cruised through the group, and then one bad game and it was all over.”

At one point Australia looked as if they would cruise home, with Mike Hussey’s classy 64 providing the glue as they mowed down their victory target of 206.

And then, and then, and then …

At one stage, Pakistan looked like giving their eternal rivals India a golden ticket into the play-offs as Australia stumbled their way to victory.

From 174 for 4, the Aussies suddenly capitulated to 187 for eight as the returning Mohammad Asif, along with Rana Naved and Saeed Ajmal, pegged the Aussie middle-order back with a flurry of wickets.

“Asif can be a match-winner for us,” Khan said. “That is why I have been talking about him all the time, because he can do something special.”

Asif sent James Hopes’s off-stump cartwheeling as Australia got a serious case of the wobbles.

Pakistan themselves had struggled with the bat, with Kamran Akmal’s early assault on the new ball the only really attacking passage of batting.

Brett Lee produced some serious pace on the lifeless pitch, nudging the speedometer beyond 150km/h several times. Mitchell Johnson chipped in with two wickets, as Pakistan barely got out of third gear.

Australia ’s innings started in a hurry, with Shane Watson and Tim Paine going hard at Naved and Asif. Paine’s flick over square leg from a decent Asif delivery was the shot of the day, but any thoughts of a hasty finish vanished as soon as Umar Gul came on.

Bowling from the same end as Lee, Gul got the ball to jag about and sent Watson packing with a sharp delivery.

Afridi then did for Paine with a top-spinner before Ponting and a very positive Hussey put on a quick fifty.

A game that looked set for a predictable climax came to life, however, as Ponting’s departure for 32 saw Pakistan lift themselves for one last push.

Suddenly runs were hard to come by as the ball started reversing and Pakistan ’s fielding moved up a notch.

By the 47th over Ponting had the look of a man about to be hijacked.

Lee and Nathan Hauritz just about held their nerves, scrambling through for a bye off the last ball to end India ’s interests in the competition. But only just.

Pakistan

Kamran Akmal c Watson44

Shahid Afridi c Hopes b Johnson15

Younus Khan c Johnson b Hopes18

Shoaib Malik c Ponting b Johnson27

Mohammad Yousuf c White b Lee45

Misbah-ul-Haq hit wicket b Watson41

Umar Akmal not out2

Naved-ul-Hasan not out7

Extras (w6)6

Total (6 wkts, 50 overs)205

Fall of wickets: 1-30 (Afridi), 2-75 (Kamran), 3-89 (Younus), 4-123 (Shoaib), 5-186 (Yousuf), 6-198 (Misbah)

Bowling: Lee 10-0-30-1 (2w), Siddle 5-0-24-0, Johnson 10-0-45-2 (2w), Watson 8-0-32-2 (2w), Hopes 10-0-50-1, Hauritz 7-1-24-0

Australia

S. Watson c Kamran b Gul24

T. Paine lbw b Afridi29

R. Ponting c Gul b Shoaib32

M. Hussey b Rana Naved64

C. Ferguson b Ajmal7

C. White b Asif5

J. Hopes c Younus b Asif1

M.Johnson b Ajmal9

B. Lee not out12

N.Hauritz not out9

Extras (b1, w12, nb1)14

Total (8 wkts, 50 overs)206

Fall of wickets: 1-44 (Watson), 2-59 (Paine), 3-140 (Ponting), 4-157 (Ferguson), 6-175 (Hopes), 7-176 (White), 8-187 (Johnson)

Bowling: Gul 9-1-38-1, Asif 8-0-34-2, Afridi 10-0-47-1, Rana Naved 9-2-39-1, Ajmal 10-1-31-2, Shoaib 4-0-16-1

Australia win by two wickets

Man of the match: Michael Hussey (AUS)

 

 

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