Australia hold nerve to prevail in thriller

Defending champions pull-off a narrow two-wicket win to dash Indias hopes

 
The Australians had to rely on their tail-enders to achieve the two-wicket victory in the very last ball in a nail-biting contest which saw fortune fluctuating from one team to the other till the very end.

In a must-win encounter, Australia first restricted Pakistan to a modest 205 for six and then just about manage to scamper home on a spongy SuperSport Park track to knock India out of the eight-nation tournament.

The Aussies were cruising along comfortably at 157 for three at one stage before five wickets fell in quick succession to completely change the complexion of the game. Needing four runs to win from the last five balls, Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz took the team home much to the relief of a tensed Australian dressing room.

The Aussies completed their Group-A engagement with five points and moved into the semifinals as the top team from their group. They had earlier defeated the West Indies while their match against India was washed out.

It was a disciplined bowling display by the Australians who exploited the conditions well to restrict the free-flowing Pakistani batsmen with only Kamran Akmal (44), Mohammad Yousuf (45) and Misbah-ul Haq (41) being the notable scorers.

The Aussies then rode on Michael Hussey’s defiant 64 to scamper home, but not before some hiccups which provided a nail-biting end to the contest. Captain Ricky Ponting (32) and Tim Paine (29) also chipped in with useful scores.

Put into bat, Akmal, Yousuf and Misbah-ul Haq provided a semblance of resistance on a tricky Centurion pitch to leave the Aussies to score at 4.10 runs per over to secure a berth in the semi-finals. Chasing the modest target, Australia got off to a good start as Shane Watson (24) and Paine produced a 44-run opening partnership, before Watson fell prey to paceman Umar Gul in ninth over.

Michael Hussey fell prey to Navel-ul-Hasan in the 41st over, leaving Australia at 174 for five.

The contest took an interesting turn when Mohammed Asif, playing his first match after the end of year-long ban, struck twice in the 42nd over.

After dismissing Hopes (1), Asif also scalped Cameron White (5) in the same over.
However, Lee and Hauritz held their nerves to complete the task for Australia.

SCORE BOARD

PAKISTAN
K Akmal b Watson    44
Afridi c Hopes b Johnson    15
Younis c Johnson b Hopes    18
Malik c Ponting b Johnson    27
Yousuf c White b Lee    45
Misbah (hit wicket) b Watson    41
U Akmal (not out)    2
Naved-ul-Hasan (not out)    7
Extras (W-6)    6     
Total (for 6 wkts, 50 overs)    205
Fall of wickets: 1-30, 2-75, 3-89, 4-123, 5-186, 6-198.
Bowling: Brett Lee 10-0-30-1, Peter Siddle 5-0-24-0, Mitchell Johnson 10-0-45-2, Shane Watson 8-0-32-2, James Hopes 10-0-50-1, Nathan Hauritz 7-1-24-0.
AUSTRALIA
Watson c K Akmal b Gul    24
Paine lbw b Afridi    29
Ponting c Gul b Malik    32
Hussey b Ran Naved    64
Ferguson b Ajmal    7
White b Asif    5
Hopes c Khan b Asif    1
Johnson b Ajmal    9
Lee (not out)    12
Hauritz (not out)    9
Extras (B-1, W-12, NB-1)    14
Total (for 8 wkts, 50 overs)    206
Fall of wickets: 1-44, 2-59, 3-140, 4-157, 5-174, 6-175, 7-176, 8-187.
Bowling: Gul 9 1 38 1, Asif 8 0 34 2, Afridi 10 0 47 1, Naved-ul-Hasan 9 2 39 1, Ajmal 10 1 31 2, Malik 4 0 16 1.

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