|Ground:||Sydney Cricket Ground|
|Scorecard:||Australia v Pakistan|
|Player:||Mohammad Hafeez, Inzamam-ul-Haq, MJ Clarke|
DateLine: 23rd January 2005
Michael Clarke steered Australia to the finals of the tri-series cricket competition with an unbeaten 103 as his team cruised to a nine-wicket win over Pakistan.
Pakistan, sent in to bat on Sunday after rain had delayed the start, suffered overcast and damp conditions on a wicket offering plenty to spinners and seamers alike.
They were bowled out in the 40th over -- 10 short of their full allocation -- for just 163, a score which never seemed likely to trouble the world champions.
In reply Australia reached 167 for one off 36.2 overs.
Clarke, 23, who has now filled in as an opener in three of Australia's four tri-series matches, has made scores of 66, 97 and 103 not out -- with Sunday's century coming off 107 balls with 14 fours and a six.
Playing on his home wicket, Clarke kept the big crowd enthralled as he survived first a strong shout for lbw and then what looked like a catch to Shoaib Malik.
As Australia neared victory captain Ricky Ponting farmed out the strike to Clarke to help the younger player reach his ton.
Clarke also survived a dropped catch while on 97, smashing a ball in the air through extra cover to Mohammad Hafeez who spilt a straightforward catch.
"I was praying it didn't carry," Clarke said.
"I had said to Ricky I have to hit a six and he told me I only needed a four, so what I was thinking I don't know.
Opening partner Matthew Hayden, whose position may be under threat when Adam Gilchrist returns from a rest break, made a laborious 27 off 65 balls and never looked comfortable, despite the lack of any serious pressure from Pakistan.
With the start of play delayed 45 minutes because of rain, Ponting had elected to bowl first, noting that there was likely to be plenty of movement in the moist wicket.
His judgement proved spot on and opening bowler Glenn McGrath wasted no time proving so. In just the third over McGrath had the consistent Salman Butt trapped lbw for a duck with the total on one.
Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, the hero of Pakistan's win over the West Indies in Brisbane last week, fared only fractionally better -- making two before speedster Brett Lee bowled him in the next over.
At two for two Pakistan were in deep trouble and the situation only worsened when new batsman Shoaib Malik also fell foul of McGrath, leaving a big gap between bat and pad to be clean bowled for eight in the 12th over.
Yousuf Youhana made four before being caught by Ponting at third slip off Michael Kasprowicz and Mohammad Hafeez contributed just 13.
When all-rounder Abdul Razzaq was brilliantly run out with a direct hit from Clarke in the covers, Pakistan were in deep trouble on 98 for 6 off 26 overs.
Azhar Mahmood with one run and Naved-ul-Hasan with six could not stem the flow of wickets.
Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who had moved up to fourth in the order, and big hitter Shahid Afridi were the only players to offer serious resistance.
Inzamam's 50 off 61 balls offered some hope before he holed out to Clarke at backward square leg off Darren Lehmann.
Again, the wisdom of playing big-hitter Afridi at number eight appeared questionable. He belted 48 off 37 balls before being stumped by stand-in wicketkeeper Brad Haddin off Lehmann, as he tried desperately to build up the tally while running out of partners.
McGrath finished with 2-18 from 10 overs. Lee was far more expensive, taking 2-54 off 10 overs while part-time spinner Lehmann nabbed 3-44 off 7.2 overs on a turning wicket.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 AFP)
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