Pakistan bundle out Australia for 176

By Jamie Alter

Colombo: Mar 19, 2011

Having failed to gather steam even as they extended their unbeaten World Cup run, a jaded Australia ran into a revved-up Pakistan attack on a two-faced surface. They won the toss and opted to bat, but there was nothing commanding about Australia s batting, which had been cut in half by the time the mandatory ball change rolled around. Bowling and fielding tigerishly, Pakistan set themselves a target of 177 to clinch the top spot in Group A. Australia simply failed to apply themselves and will have to outdo Pakistan s effort to defend their worst World Cup total since 1992, as well as an outstanding unbeaten record in the tournament.

Pakistan wrested the early initiative through tidy bowling and sharp fielding. Umar Gul, after a brief scare when he went down clutching his left knee, bowled Shane Watson with one that jagged back after pitching, and here after Australia struggled on a sluggish surface. Abdur Rehman was accurate and that resulted in Australia pinching just 17 from his first five overs, a third of which came with via a lofted six by Brad Haddin.

Gul (5-1-16-1) and Rehman stifled runs and only 36 runs came off the first Powerplay. Shahid Afridi picked up Australia s unease against spin and relied heavily on Mohammad Hafeez, who was particularly impressive in bottling up one end and bowled out his 10 overs for only 26. He was rewarded when Ricky Ponting, who came into this match with only 83 runs at 20.75, steered a thin outside edge into Kamran Akmal s gloves.

Against spin, Haddin vacillated between dabbing off the back foot and pushing to the off side, and never looked at ease. Having scratched his way to 42 off 79 balls, Haddin feebly felt for his 80th, bowled by Wahab Riaz, and feathered a catch. Cameron White wasn t alert enough to beat a good throw from Misbah-ul-Haq, and matters turned dire when Michael Clarke suddenly discarded his watchful approach and swiped at Abdul Razzaq.

At 136 for five after 35 overs, Australia found themselves in a hole. Michael Hussey, Australia s man for a scrap, wasn t able to revive his side today. Trying to whip Rehman over midwicket, he was done in by the slowness of the track and spooned a catch to the fielder. Razzaq soon had his second when Mitchell Johnson fended one to Kamran Akmal, and with more than 11 overs to go Australia were in danger of being bowled out. An inswinging Gul yorker to Jason Krejza, a googly to Steve Smith, and a change of pace to Brett Lee ensured that such fears became a reality.

Pakistan s bowlers, often guilty of wavering with their lines, were extremely frugal today. Gul set the tone, Riaz backed him up well, while Afridi and Hafeez tightened the screws in the middle overs.

Under weighty skies, with Australia s batsmen in a tangle over spin and seam, Rehman gained appreciable drift and turn, ending with one for 34 from his quota. Razzaq wasn t called on until the 35th over, but when he did all he needed to do was pitch is straight and on a length, and was rewarded with two for eight from four overs.

Brief Scores: Australia 176 all out in 46.4 overs (Brad Haddin 42, Michael Clarke 34; Umar Gul 3 for 30, Abdul Razzaq 2 for 8, Mohammad Hafeez 1 for 26, Abdur Rehman 1 for 34) vs Pakistan.

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now. His twitter feed is @jamie_alter)

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