Defending champions Australia pulled off a dramatic last-ball victory over Pakistan in a low-scoring thriller to romp into the semifinals of the Champions Trophy and bring a pre-mature end to India’s listless campaign here on Wednesday.
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 secession 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 semifinals.
Akmal’s knock, during which he struck six boundaries, helped Pakistan recover from early jolts, while Yousuf tried to hold the innings together with a defiant 69-ball 45.
Pakistan started on an attacking note with Shahid Afridi, promoted to open the batting, cracking two boundaries off paceman Peter Siddle in the second over of the innings.
But Afridi (15), who struck three boundaries during his brief 18-ball stay, failed to make it big and became the first man to depart when his ambitious pull off Mitchell Johnson (2-45) found James Hopes in square leg region in the eighth over.
Other opener Akmal then paired up with skipper Younis Khan (18 off 49) to stitch up a 45—run partnership for the second wicket, before Shane Watson sent Akmal packing in the 19th over.
Akmal, who was handling the Australian bowlers with elan, went for a pull off Watson, but only managed to bottom-edge the ball which then fell onto the base of his leg stump.
Australians, including the new-ball pair of Brett Lee and Siddle, maintained good line and length from the very beginning to keep Pakistan run-rate under check.
Medium pacer Hopes inflicted the third blow by removing skipper Younis, who was slowly getting his eyes in, as Johnson pouched his mistimed shot in 14th over.
After the 32nd over, when Pakistan was struggling in 123 for four and making 200—run mark looking a difficult task, Yousuf, who scored three boundaries, and Misbah-ul-Haq (41 off 53) chipped in with some valuable contributions.
Misbah, who had cracked four boundaries before returning to the dugout after hitting his own wickets in the last over, pushed up Pakistan’s runrate towards the end of the innings.
Besides Johnson, Watson scalped two wickets for 32 runs, while both Lee and Hopes chipped in with one wickets each.
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.
Australia suffered their second loss when Afridi’s wicket-bound delivery found Pain’s leg after three overs.
Ponting came when Australia were at 59 for two and joined hand with Michael Hussey to add 81 runs to the board. Ponting (32), who struck just one boundary during his 64-ball stay, made some patient contribution.
Hussey, who struck six fours and a six during the 87-ball innings, 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) just after three balls in the same over.
However, Lee and Hauritz held their nerves to complete the task for Australia.