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May 23, 1999

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Pakis have the kangaroos hopping

Faisal Shariff

Headingley, which has hosted the maximum number of World Cup matches so far, witnessed yet another thrilling encounter between two of the three title favourites Pakistan and Australia.

The match eventually turned out to be the closest encounter of the tournament so far (notwithstanding India's four-run loss to Zimbabwe last week). Eventually Pakistan won by 10 runs a match that right until the end could have gone either way.

Pakistan started badly as they lost opener Saeed Anwar in the eighth over after he had played some exquisite strokes on either side of the wicket and raced away to a fluent 25 off 23 balls though Wajahatullah Wasti, who replaced Shahid Afridi, struggled at the other end. Anwar edged one from Paul Reiffel to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist. Four overs later, Wasti played on the up, opening the face of the bat for Steve Waugh to gobble up the catch at gully.

When Ijaz Ahmed, returning from an injury, was trapped in front by Damien Fleming for a duck, another Pakistani collapse appeared imminent. But Inzamam-ul-haq and pinch-hitter Abdur Razzaq kept the scoreboard moving, though at a slow pace.

Just when Wasim Akram's tactic of promoting Razzaq up the order began to look like a miscalculation, the youngster came up with some lusty blows to score his first ODI fifty. He and Inzamam were involved in quite a few mix-ups, but managed to survive and restore some sanity to the Pakistani innings with a partnership of more than 100 runs.

The stand ended when Razzaq tried once too often to score a big hit and holed out to Fleming on the fence off the bowling of Shane Warne. But by then Warne had taken a fair bit of stick from both batsmen.

At 164 for 4. Pakistan had a platform ready for an assault on the Aussie bowling. Yousuf Youhana played a cameo of an innings, scoring a quick-fire 29 off 16 balls with four hits to the fence and one over it.

Inzamam-ul-Haq His dismissal brought the in-form Akram to the crease. As the skipper upped the tempo, Inzamam lived up to his reputation by running himself out, though it would be wrong to blame him this time. In the 47th over, he got a vicious delivery from Fleming on his toe and fell to the ground to find himself run out by the proverbial mile.

Moin Khan then seized the initiative away from the Aussies with a blistering knock that made the difference between a decent total and a match-winning one. He scored 31 runs off a mere 12 balls, with 3 sixes and 2 fours, marking out pace spearhead Glen McGrath for some special treatment, smashing him out of the park twice.

Pakistan scored 145 runs in the last 15 overs, proving once again that one-day cricket had returned to its conventional script. No more do the first 15 overs fetch those astounding 100-odd runs. Apologies to the Jayasuriyas and Kalus of the world.

Aussie skipper Steve Waugh erred with his bowling options, bringing himself on as the fifth bowler and going for 37 off just six overs and providing the required momentum to the Pakistani innings. His remaining four overs had to be shared by Damien Martyn, who replaced Adam Dale in this match and went for 25 off two overs, and Darren Lehmann, who bowled two overs and conceded 17 runs. Thus a total 79 runs were conceded off 10 overs that ought to have been bowled by a specialist bowler. In the ultimate analysis, this tactical error cost Australia the match and jeopardised its chances of making it to the Super Sixes unless they beat the West Indies who are also raring to have a go at them.

Gilchrist's reputation as the most attacking opener of the tournament took a humbling tumble when he heard his furniture thrown into disarray by one Mr Wasim Akram in the very first over of the Australian innings. Gilchrist did not even get off the mark.

Ricky Ponting His dismissal brought the talented Ricky Ponting to the crease with the daunting task of facing the best left-arm fast bowler in the business at one end and the fastest bowler on earth -- Shoaib Akhtar -- at the other.

Ponting handled the pressure well and together with the fluent Mark Waugh began to repair the damage. A verbal duel with Akhtar provided him the fillip he needed to take the attack by the scruff of the neck. Ponting sent Azhar Mahmood to the fence on four occasions immediately thereafter. Mark Waugh also got into the act and took offspinner Saqlain Mushtaq apart two overs later for 10 runs.

Abdur Razzaq's introduction got Pakistan the breakthrough they needed to claw their way back into the game. Waugh edged one to Moin Khan behind the stumps. Soon after, Ponting, who looked to be in ominous touch, tried to sweep one from Saqlain and top-edged it to Saeed Anwar at short fine leg. And two balls later, Darren Lehmann played an irresponsible paddle sweep only to find the cherry land into the ever-eager hands of 'keeper Moin Khan.

That brought the two most reliable Australian batsmen, Michael Bevan and skipper Steve Waugh, together at the wicket.

Bevan and Waugh defied the Pakistani attack to put on 113 runs for the fifth wicket. Bevan scored 61 off 80 balls with three boundaries and a six. Steadily, he and his captain got the required run rate down to about 6 an over.

In between, Shoaib Akhtar and Steve Waugh got involved in a verbal fight after which South African umpire Rudi Koertzen warned the fast bowler to behave himself. Shoaib's constant needling got to Koertzen who later turned down an lbw appeal against Waugh, the bowler in question being Akhtar! That was as plumb an lbw as you will ever see on a cricket pitch, but Koertzen curtly said "not out" and walked away.

Akram then took the ball in the 42nd over and saw the back of the threatening Bevan as he edged to Ijaz Ahmed at backward point. Bevan's dismissal again tilted the game Pakistan's way.

Waugh then took over and looked set to take the initiative back from Pakistan with a few lusty hits off Saqlain. Shoaib Akhtar, returning to the attack, finally crashed one through the Aussie captain's defences and bowled him for 49.

Thirteen runs were required off the last over for an Aussie win with the two Damiens at the crease. Akram, a veteran of such situations, bowled with amazing accuracy to castle Damien Martyn and McGrath in the space of three deliveries to notch up Pakistan's third win on the trot.

This was one of the few matches that did not involve India and yet had a boisterous crowd. For a change England seemed to have woken up to the fact that the World Cup is on, thanks to the local Pakistani community which came out in big numbers to cheer its native team to another famous victory.

Pakistan is now as good as through to the Super Six. But it's easier to find a chicken with teeth than to predict whether Australia will make it there after consecutive defeats by New Zealand and Pakistan and the Windies coming up next. The Waugh, however, is far from over!

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