DateLine: 30th September 2009
Australia qualified for the Champions Trophy semi-finals with a thrilling two-wicket win over Pakistan at SuperSport Park Wednesday thanks to a last-ball bye.
The defending champions, having won the toss and restricted Pakistan to 205-6 off 50 overs, appeared to be coasting home with 140 runs on the board, seven wickets in hand and 112 balls to face.
But as the Pakistani bowlers led by Saeed Ajmal came alive, wickets tumbled and Australia entered the final over needing four runs to win a match transformed into a thriller after being tedious to watch for so long.
Tail-enders Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz picked off singles against superb bowling from Umar Gul and tight fielding to reach 206-8 in the best match so far of the tournament.
Man-of-the-match Michael Hussey top scored with 64 and Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson took two wickets each for the Australians, who face England Friday in the semi-finals with Pakistan meeting New Zealand one day later.
"I was chewing my fingers off at the end," joked Autralia skipper Ricky Ponting. "Now we have to discover what went wrong in the second half of our innings and fix it."
Pakistan captain Younus Khan admitted he never expected such a tight finish: "We suddenly came good and took wickets. Some of our bowling was fantastic on a track that was a little soft but good."
Pakistan were never comfortable on a seam-friendly wicket and openers Kamran Akmal and Shahid Afridi compiled only 30 when the partnership was terminated on an overcast day.
Afridi was forced to play a pull off Mitchell Johnson and James Hopes covered ground quickly to take the catch as Pakistan struggled to match the form that reaped 302 runs against India last weekend.
Kamran also paid dearly for attempting a pull off Watson and the ball took a bottom edge into leg stump to leave Pakistan 75-2 approaching the 20-over mark.
It was lacklustre fare from teams who could meet again in the final with barely a murmur from the small crowd who braved cool conditions to watch the action.
Skipper Younus Khan was the third Pakistani victim and his innings summed up the lethargy that enveloped his team with 49 balls needed to garner an 18-run total that included just two fours.
Johnson joined the Australian 100 ODI wicket club with a soft one as Shoaib Malik attempted a drive only to send the ball straight to Ponting at short cover.
Mohammed Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq consolidated the innings with a 63-run fifth-wicket stand before the former was caught by Cameroon White trying to steer a Brett Lee delivery over midwicket.
Misbah hit his wicket in the final over and the most unpredictable team in world cricket must have sensed they had not scored enough runs to avoid losing and slipping to second spot on the table.
After ducks against the Windies and India, Watson was desperate for runs and struck five boundaries in a brisk 24 before Gul deceived him and the ball edged to Kamran.
Fellow opener Tim Paine departed three overs later, trapped leg before by Afridi spin, then 'old hands' Ponting and Hussey added 81 runs for the third wicket.
Ponting made 32 off twice as many balls and managed just one boundary before a spectacular Gul catch off a Shoaib delivery sent the Australian skipper back to the pavilion.
Replacement Callum Ferguson made just seven off 18 balls before he was bowled by Saeed Ajmal, whose low, swift delivery uprooted the middle and leg stumps.
A Rana Naved yorker proved the undoing of Hussey, who could not get his bat down sufficiently quickly and was bowled having faced 87 balls and scoring six fours and one six.
(Article: Copyright © 2009 AFP)
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