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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

Australia too good for Pakistan

Prem Panicker | February 11, 2003 22:32 IST

Scorecard | Commentary | Analysis | Images | Report

Sometimes, you don't mind being wrong -- even horribly wrong.

While making notes for a preview of today's game, early this morning, I reckoned on balance that Pakistan would win. And by the time I got to the office, the news had broken that Shane Warne was out of the Cup, for hastening his recovery in non-permissible ways, to put it diplomatically.

The main problem I saw with Australia was that going up against a quality bowling attack, Australia, after Gilchrist, Hayden and Ponting, seemed a bit brittle.

Think about it -- if you wanted to pencil in three names for a middle order, would it be, say, Bevan, Waugh and Lehmann, or would be it Martyn, Maher and Symonds?

Australia, reduced by fate, chance and circumstance to picking 11 from 12, had no choice but to go with the second lot. Pakistan skipper Waqar Younis struck an early blow when he won the toss, and opted to bowl first -- which meant he would get first use of a track with a bit of early morning life, and a cloud cover to aid swing.

It set up a furious first hour of play -- batsmen who over time have learnt not to take a backward step, against bowlers who got more aggressive with each delivery. Something had to give -- and it was the nerve of Matt Hayden and Adam Gilchrist that gave first.

Gilchrist lasted three balls, which featured two wild swings. The first saw a lucky escape, the second saw the left-handed vice-captain look to swing a full-length delivery from Wasim Akram, on leg stump, over wide long-on. The ball seamed back, the movement defeated the shot and off the leading edge, put the ball high up for Younis to take a fine catch at mid-on, running back and watching the ball into his hands over his shoulder.

Matt Hayden initially played with a lot of sound sense, against bowling -- Akram, Akthar -- that was fast, furious, electric, and erratic all in one unpredictable package. It seemed, though, that the once circumspect Hayden, who retooled his game over the past year to become one of the most aggressive batsmen on the planet, couldn't cope with too prolonged a spell of sense.

He began going hard at the ball, surviving through sheer luck before he overhit an attempted square cut off Akram to a ball too close to the stumps for the shot, got the under edge and saw his stumps fall to the ricochet (52/2). Damien Martyn walked in and walked out immediately, as an inspired Akram angled one across the right hander, hit the full length, straightened it through the number four's defense and hit the top of off-stump.

Jimmy Maher averted the hat-trick, but didn't last too long -- Younis made one leave the left-hander late, on line outside off, drawing Maher into a push that saw the ball run off the bat face to the keeper. At 86/4 in the 16th over, Australia was down -- and, you would have thought, out.

You've got to wonder how Ricky Ponting was feeling, at the other end. He had taken over the captaincy from Steve Waugh, he had been silent witness to a hugely emotional plea by Waugh to be allowed to play what would have been his fifth World Cup, he had spearheaded the move for youth at the expense of the two Waughs, he had woken up on the morning of his first game of the Cup to find himself one star bowler short and reduced to a squad of just 12, and he had watched the Pakistan bowlers devastate his famed top order (he could have been a victim, had Younis Khan managed to cling on to an ill judged shot on the up off Waqar).

What do you think about, at a time like that? Ponting thought about singles -- and turned on a display of running between wickets that the masters of the art, like an Asif Iqbal, a Javed Miandad, a Dean Jones or Michael Bevan, would have been proud to put their signature to. He ran for everything -- and the wonder of it was that even when taking the seemingly impossible single, he was cruising into his crease well before the ball came in.

And every now and again, he attacked. Two fours in an over off Waqar (the 12th), three off Razzaq's first over that put pressure, immediately, on Pakistan's fourth bowler -- he did just enough to ensure that Pakistan didn't run away with the game. For me, though, the 22nd over was the one that defined the mindset -- the over produced 11 runs, beginning with a four, then a stream of singles that drove the Pak fielders to distraction and forced misfields, wild throws, and other errata.

Check theGraphical Analysis package, select the Australian innings and from the package, select the Manhattan -- it gives you the best view, in the house, of how the Aussies, down to their last real batsmen, kept the momentum going in a classic display of counter-attacking cricket.

It seemed almost a pity, given the way Ponting was batting, that he had to get out to a rank bad shot. Akthar in his second spell had been tamed, the ball he delivered was wide enough to be called twice, Ponting lunged for it and touched it through to Taufiq Umar the sole slip to end a quality innings of 53 off 67 balls (Australia 146/5 in the 30th over).

Ponting walked off, and left the job to Andrew Symonds the man who had burst on the scene as an explosive hitter, only to fall away over time. His selection to this squad had in fact drawn the severest criticism, even from the Australian media -- and the legend is that it was only Ponting's insistence that ensured his selection.

If that was indeed the case, then Symonds repaid his captain in style. You don't describe such innings, you simply savor them -- as it happens, and then time and again in the mind. The precision of the footwork, the perfection of the backlift, the blinding bat-speed into the shot, the enormous power that rocketed the ball through, over, by the side of and sometimes, even under fielders who chose to stand and admire, rather than waste energy on futile chase.

The innings cannot be described, but it can be statistically summed up -- the arc square leg to fine leg, most favoured by batsmen fighting lost causes, gave Symonds only 25 of his 143 runs. Symonds scorned the tuck off the pads and opted to force -- square, or straight. The arc point to mid on, thus, yielded 99, a testimony to the cleanest hitting till date in the competition.

There is another yardstick to estimate the value of his knock. Symonds walked out in the 16th over, with the score reading 86/4. He was not out at the end -- and the partnerships were 60 off 83 with Ponting (Symonds 34/50), 70/57 with Brad Hogg (Symonds 54/35); 54/46 with Ian Harvey (Symonds 28/27), 22 off 13 with Lee (17/7), 18 off 10 with Gillespie (10/6).

Put simply, he barged ahead like a nuclear powered rocket -- and dragged his mates along, in his wake. His 143 not out was more than half the number of runs scored off the bat by all his mates -- and the mammoth score of 310/8 that resulted had 'win' written all over it.

Besides amateurish mistakes in the field, Pakistan made more crucial errors in strategy. At a time when Akram and Akthar were all over the Aussies, Younis opted to rest them and bring on himself and Razzaq -- immediately lowering the temperature of the contest several degrees. Though the danger signs were there in the first hour itself -- drinks were taken in the 13th over, an indication of an unusually slow over rate, Younis showed little urgency in upping the rate of bowling until he found himself needing to finish 20 overs in a little over an hour. This meant he had to bowl Afridi for a long spell to try and rush through some overs -- a spell that cost 63 off 9.3 overs, eased the pressure off Symonds and put the batsman, with his first ODI century under his belt, on such an adrenalin high that even Akram became cannon fodder in the final spell.

Pakistan were still docked an over for slow over-rate -- adding insult to the injury of having given the Aussies 31 extras thanks largely to wayward bowling (the Aussies, effectively, scored 310 runs in 53.3 overs, Pakistan had to do it in 49).

That the pressure had got to Younis was evident when he hurled two beamers at Symonds at the end -- one, a genuine slip attempting a slower ball, the next a deliberate missile aimed at the batsman's head, in the penultimate over, that saw Symonds come down the track in visible rage and an equally angry umpire Shepherd ordering the Pak skipper off the bowling crease, as per the rules.

Pakistan's biggest problem batting wise is the opening slot -- Syed Anwar is easily their best option, but he wasn't on the team list for some reason. Shahid Afridi is about as predictable as the weather in an English "summer", and Taufeeq Umar is a classic instance of a Pakistani youngster rushed into the big time before he had cut his technical teeth.

Afridi, predictably, went early -- to Jason Gillespie, who had bothered him from ball one. The tall Aussie quick landed the ball in the corridor and seamed it away, time and again, grimacing as the ball flashed past the edge of the tentative bat. Finally, he found the edge -- and Pak were 9/1.

Umar played an innings that was a mixture of the occasionally sublime, and the inevitably ridiculous. His way of addressing the ball is to walk about all over the place, head bobbing around like a cork on a stormy sea -- how he ever spots the length and line is a mystery. Out of the blue, he would then produce a perfect cricketing shot.

A mistimed, misjudged hook to a searing bouncer from Lee saw Umar hole out to Brad Hogg. Inzamam-ul Haq provided further evidence of how McGrath works a batsman out -- a ball just outside off, seaming away, was driven brilliantly over cover, the next ball was down the same line, only an inch further away, Inzy drove again, and Gilchrist held the edge. McGrath had, again, proved his theory that the distance from middle of the bat to the edge was an inch.

At the 15 over mark, 49/3, and effectively out of it. Salim Elahi -- who like his Habib Bank mate Umar moves too much in his crease for the comfort of purists, and Yousuf Youhanna, who looked the part of Pakistan's best batsman, then put together a small partnership without ever looking likely to challenge the mountain in front of them.

Symonds had done enough in the first half of the match to deserve a long holiday in a tropical island -- but he had more in store. Youhana chipped Harvey over midwicket, looking for a brace, Symonds raced in off the line, dived headlong, and held in front of him at full stretch, to reduce Pakistan to 103/5 in the 26th over and effectively end the game as a contest.

The rest went through the motions, the only purple patch coming when Rashid Latif and Wasim Akram combined in a partnership that produced a display of carefree hitting and, more materially, 54 runs in 29 deliveries. How the man who pointed an accusing finger at match fixing, and the man who that finger was chiefly pointed at, can share a ground let alone a thriving partnership is merely one more of those mysteries Pakistan cricket is full of.

Pakistan was all out in the 45th over, for 228 -- an 82-run winning margin for an Aussie team that at 86/4 had looked out of it. The catch that sealed the win exemplified the performance in the field -- Younis drove hard and, one thought, well; McGrath at mid off, having bowled all his ten overs on the trot first up and then done his bit of outfielding, ran to his left, dived, figured he couldn't get both hands to it, stuck his left hand out and clutched the ball like a lifeline.

It has to qualify as one of the greatest fight backs in contemporary cricket. It makes you wonder what coach John Buchanan, whose favourite coaching manual is not Donald Bradman's Art of Cricket but Sun Tzu's Art of War, told his charges before the game.

Take no prisoners?

Give no quarter?

God knows. Judging by the efficacy, the other teams in this competition might want to make a beeline for the bookstores.

Scorecard | Commentary | Analysis | Images | Report

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Number of User Comments: 15




Sub: cmmon guys!

cmmon pak!u should have done it this time!didnt they give u enough last year?get up n get going...u have to get the CUP!


Posted by saima





Sub:

Kudos to the writer for such a superlative write up. Exhaustive,Excellent and Entertaining all at the same time.


Posted by Saurabh





Sub: Australia too good for Pakistan

I think Prem Panicker is the saving grace of cricket journalism in India. After reading the other write ups in "national" newspaper websites, you almost ...


Posted by Wewake





Sub: Aussie - Pak

Yes I agree that Aussie was too good for Pakistan. In fact Waqar had lost the battle before it actually started when he sent in ...


Posted by Vijay Singh Mahendra





Sub: Well written article..

As a student in the US I am unable to watch the matches due to lack of time..I just manage to read ur articles..and am ...


Posted by Sheetal Kumar




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