Pakistan halt Australias unbeaten run; Top group

Australia’s World Cup winning streak finally came to an end with the loss to Pakistan at Colombo.

By Jamie Alter

Colombo: Mar 19, 2011

In a contest that kept spectators engaged throughout, on a pitch that assisted seam and spin, and in a setting where the decibel levels often reached a crescendo despite this being neutral territory, Australia s proud World Cup run was halted. In a low-scoring game that was turned into a tricky run chase thanks to Brett Lee s bullishness, Pakistan scampered to a four-wicket win to top Group A.

Australia won the toss and opted to bat, but there was nothing commanding about their batting, which had been cut in half by the time the mandatory ball change rolled around. Australia simply failed to apply themselves and though they battled hard to defend their worst World Cup total since 1992, they didn t have enough to defend 176.

With the ball in his hand, Lee made Pakistan s reply difficult. He started by dismissing the openers Mohammad Hafeez smartly caught and bowled after fending a short ball, Kamran Akmal rapped on the pads and returned for a second spell which included the scalps of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq off successive deliveries. Running in hard, banging the ball in hard and fielding excellently, Lee epitomized everything that is tough about Australian cricket teams.

However, his bowling team-mates were not as receptive and this allowed Pakistan to squeeze runs. Asad Shafiq put his head down to score a watchful 48, adding 53 with Younis and 41 with Umar Akmal, who refused to let the pressure get to him. Shahid Afridi s dismissal for two left Pakistan 142 for six and 35 runs away from victory, but Umar Akmal and Abdul Razzaq hung on to complete the job.

From the time he entered at 98 for four, Umar Akmal showed his intention with a series of bold strokes. He cut and drove hard, left when the ball wobbled a bit outside off, and constantly looked to dominate spin. Where more senior batsmen failed to handle the heat, Umar Akmal stood his ground and refused to be shifted.

Pakistan were made to sweat, but in truth they had done all the hard work earlier in the day when the bowlers 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 and Rehman stifled runs and only 36 runs came off the first Powerplay. Afridi picked up Australia s unease against spin and relied heavily on 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, and matters turned dire when Michael Clarke suddenly discarded his watchful approach and swiped at 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 Lee ensured that such fears became a reality.

Lee would return to have his say, but even his outstanding dedication and relentless hustling weren t enough to stop Pakistan ending a World Cup run that had lived 4, 318 days.

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) lost to Pakistan 178 for 6 in 41 overs (Umar Akmal 44*, Asad Shafiq 46; Brett Lee 4 for 28).

(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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