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Clinical Pak snap Australia's unbeaten run

Last updated on: March 19, 2011 22:10 IST

Pakistan turned up their class as they thumped Australia by four wickets to end the defending champions' unbeaten World Cup run stretching 12 years, four tournaments and four continents.

- Scorecard

After his batsmen were all out for 176, Ricky Ponting started in a conventional manner, depending as usual on his three-man pace battery to give Australia the early breakthroughs. And Lee, Tait and Johnson have delivered till now, taking 28 wickets in five matches. 

But on Saturday against Pakistan, defending a small total, Ponting's three-chamber fast-bowling revolver misfired, with only Lee firing at the right length and in the right line consistently. 

Tait was erratic, as he tends to be on his off day, and Johnson, who on his day can make the ball talk, bowled wide and strayed outside the off-stump far too often to trouble the Pakistani top order.

Thus, the contest was soon reduced to Lee vs Pakistan.

Umar AkmalHe got one to lift nastily on Mohammed Hafeez, and ran the length of the pitch to take the return catch off the leading edge.

He then speared one full and straight from wide of the crease to pin Kamran Akmal leg before.

Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan came together and nudged the total towards the target, untroubled by any of the bowlers.

Ponting had no option but bring back Lee, who produced two classic deliveries on the corridor outside the off-stump to remove Younis and Misbah off consecutive balls.

There were more minor jitters as Shafiq and Afridi departed quickly, falling to Johnson and Krejza respectively, but Umar Akmal and Abdul Razzaq took Pakistan home.

But the credit for this win should go to Pakistan's bowlers, who turned up and delivered a clinical performance on a pitch that was unresponsive for a long time before it slowed down.

Australia, who won the toss and elected to bat, could never get on top as Umar Gul, Mohammed Hafeez, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi and Abdur Rehman put the skids on a batting line up that was tentative against swing and spin.

Afridi opened with Umar Gul and left arm spinner Abdur Rehman. Gul hit his stride straightaway, getting the ball to nip off the seam, while Rehman, sensing that the pitch did not offer much turn, kept it straight and simple.

Haddin and Watson, in this World Cup, have tended to take their time to gauge the pitch before going for their shots. Today was no different. But, in the fifth over, Gul got one to nip back from outside the off-stump. Watson took a swipe at thin air, and the ball hit the top of the off-stump for a textbook dismissal.

Ponting, woefully out of form coming into this World Cup, started in circumspect manner, as Australia crawled to 36/1 at the end of 10 overs.

Afridi took the bowling powerplay and made a double change, bringing in Wahab Riaz and himself from the other end.

The following five overs were Australia's best, as the batsmen first got busy and then took an erratic Riaz, who kept pitching on their pads, to the cleaners. They scored 20 runs from his two powerplay overs, and almost doubled their 10-over-score.

Afridi, though, was up for the challenge, and quickly brought in Mohammed Hafeez in the 16th over. From there on, it was an exhibition of two spinners slamming the brakes on a batting line suspect against spin on a track that, though it did not yield much turn, was rapidly slowing down by the over.

In the 19th over -- Hafeez's second -- he pitched one on middle and got it to turn marginally away from Ponting, who shaped up to run it to third man.

Umar GulKamran Akmal collected the ball and went up as Ponting stood his ground and the umpire gave it not out. Pakistan took it upstairs, and the replays showed a huge edge before the ball nested in the webbing of Kamran's gloves. That Ponting stood his ground after such a big nick knowing well that the referral will catch him red handed, showed how desperate he is to regain lost form.

In the bowling powerplay, Haddin had shown a fondness for Riaz, and he looked to dominate the youngster as Afridi reintroduced him after the fall of the wicket.

Riaz was a much improved bowler in his second spell and in his second over of the spell pitched one just short of length and angled it away from Haddin, who tried to run it to third man but could only edge it to Kamran.

That brought Cameron White with enough overs in hand to redeem himself. But, by then, Afridi and Hafeez were very difficult to get away with.

Their plan was simple. Keep the bowling tight, wicket-to-wicket, and let the batsmen do all the hard work and wait for them to commit an error as the frustration mounts.

In the first ball of the 31st over, Clarke did just that. He turned one round the corner to square leg inside the circle and called White for a suicidal single.

Misbah homed in on it and fired a low throw that Kamran collected on the volley and dislodged the bails to catch White well short of his ground.

Hafeez soon completed his quota with 1/26. Nothing flamboyant there, but loads of application and discipline. He kept it straight and tight, pitching it on the right lengths. 60 times.

Abdul Razzaq ran in for the first time in the 35th over and hit his stride straightaway, setting up Clarke's fall. First ball to Clarke was outside the off-stump, just short of length. The ball kept low and Clarke missed it. The second ball was relatively closer to the stumps, but Clarke had to come down on it late. The third was straighter, and Clarke could only pat it tamely back to the bowler.

The frustration showed in the next ball, as he took a wild swipe at one that pitched just outside off-stump and cut in from back of length. The ball did not rise to the height at which Clarke was playing for it, and snuck under the bat to clip the off bail.

This pitch may have behaved funny now and then, but it did not have any role in the next dismissal.

If credit needs to be given, it has to be to Afridi for putting a short-midwicket for Abdur Rehman's slow left armers.

The rusty Hussey's tentative step was neither forward nor back for a ball that pitched marginally short of good length, and looking to scoop it over the infield, Hussey finds Misbah at short midiket. Job done, the fielder was removed as Mitchell Johnson walked in.

He did not last long, as he poked at one dug in short outside the off stump from Razzaq to the keeper.

Abdur Rehman finishing his tidy spell, bringing back Umar Gul in the 43rd over. Though there was a hint of reverse swing, he was wayward as he went for 8 runs.

But in the first ball of his next over, Gul fired an inswinging yorker that any established batsman would have found difficult to keep away, let alone a tailender like Krejza.

Steve Smith tried to hit out at the other end, but he was always going to struggle to read Afridi. In the 46th over, he did not react quickly to one that hurried on after pitching to crash into the stumps.

With Tait and Lee at the crease and with Gul at his pomp, it was just a matter of time before the yorker-bouncer bait was employed and sure enough Gul unleashed a trademark guided missile on Lee's toes before popping one short as the confused batsman ballooned it to end Australia's innings at 176.

Thanks to Smith's late cameo, Australia went from a no-hope score to a potentially banana peel score. But to trouble this Pakistan line-up on a slow pitch, they need their slow bowlers to fire more than their fast men.

Krishnakumar Padmanabhan in Colombo