Australia reach semis after survivng a scare
by Rohit Sakunia

Ground:Centurion Park, Centurion
Scorecard:Australia v Pakistan
Player:Mohammad Yousuf, Kamran Akmal, Naved-ul-Hasan, MEK Hussey, MG Johnson
Event:ICC Champions Trophy 2009/10

DateLine: 30th September 2009


The last spot for the semi-final heated up as the match went down to the wire with Australia finally managing to reach the semi-final stage of the tournament with a last ball win. They were comfortably placed at 140 for 2 but they suffered a huge collapse as they stumbled to 187 for 8. When Johnson was dismissed, Pakistan were favourites to seal the match but Lee and Hauritz saw off some nervy moments at the end to see their team through to the next stage.


Earlier, Ponting won the toss and decided to field first under overcast conditions at Centurion. Pakistan started well but once they started losing wickets, run rate dipped and then they got stifled. Australia's disciplined bowling never allowed them to accelerate and though they always had wickets till the end, final outcome was that they fell way short of a good score on the wicket.


Kamran Akmal and the promoted Shahid Afridi began positively for Pakistan. Siddle came in for some special treatment by the batsmen as he kept on overpitching the ball. The introduction of Mitchell Johnson though started the run stifling process for the Aussies. He surprised Afridi with a short one and Afridi top edged it only to be caught by James Hopes at backward-square.


Akmal and skipper then added 45 runs for the second wicket but Younis's innings was a pain on the pitch. Akmal was the first to depart then as he chopped a Watson delivery onto his stumps. Younis, who looked uncomfortable throughout his knock fell attempting to push the pace off Hopes for 18 from 49 deliveries.


Small partnerships were never a problem for Pakistan but because their scoring rate hardly touched four-per-over, the Aussies were never under pressure. The only batsman who looked like threatening the Aussie peace was last match centurian Shoaib Malik. He tried lifting the run rate with a straight six of Hopes, but not a long after that miscued to Ricky Ponting to become Johnson's 100th ODI victim. Mohammad Yousuf then fell to Lee and Misbah to Watson as Pakistan failed to take advantage of their final power play. It was not that Pakistan did not have good scorers. In fact Mohammad Yousuf (45 off 69) and Kamran Akmal (44 off 63) both played handy knocks but neither of them were able to convert and exert a little pressure on the Aussies. The only batsman who looked comfortable on the pitch was Misbah-ul-Haq, but his dismissal via a hitwicket summed up the Pakistan struggle.


With a modest target to chase down, the Australian openers were off to a sound start. Watson who had scored a couple of zeros in the previous two matches, sprinted off by scoring ten runs in the first over off the Australian innings. Paine got into the act by clipping Asif over deep-midwicket for a huge six to kick-start the chase. The Australian openers did not relent as they put to sword a Pakistani attack that lacked venom and firepower to disturb the Australian opening pair. The pair looked set to put up a strong base before Watson (24) was surprised by a a sharp leg-cutter from Gul that took off from a length which he edged to Akmal behind the stumps.


With the seam bowlers being ineffective, Younis Khan turned to his deputy Afridi and he struck immediately with a one that went straight on to trap Paine leg before for 29 and the Australian score read 59 for 2 in 12 overs. Hussey joined Ponting and the two set about stabilizing the Australian innings. The spin-duo off Afridi and Ajmal proved very difficult to get away for the Australian batsmen as both the spinners teased the batsmen with excellent exhibition off spin bowling. Both the batsmen were happy to just push the ball around and score runs in singles as the required run-rate was just over four.


For around twenty overs both the batsmen looked rarely in trouble as they negotiated the Pakistani attack with ease. The pair added 81 runs in 19.5 overs and Ponting continued his good run in the tournament and looked set for another substantial score for himself when Malik broke the partnership by removing Ponting. Ferguson was cleaned up by a big spinning off-spinner from Ajmal but the Australian were well-placed at 157 for 4 with just 49 to win. Slowly the Pakistani bowlers piled on the pressure on the Pakistani batsmen with asphyxiating bowling as the pressure on the batsmen began to show. Naved-ul-Hasan produced a big reverse swinging yorker to Hussey to disturb his furniture. Asif returning for his second spell dislodged Hopes and White to put Australia in further hole.


The Australian score read 176 for 7 and Pakistan had stormed back into the match. Johnson stuck around for sometime but a doosra from Ajmal cleaned him up as the match seemed to be in Pakistan's grip. Naved-ul-Hasan bowled a brilliant spell but Lee in the company of Hauritz managed to get the Australian team past the winning line.


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