World Cup

Wahab Riaz, a streak of green amid Pakistan's rouges

Wahab Riaz had dismissed destructive opener David Warner and Australia captain Michael Clarke.

Riaz finally enticed a hook shot out of Watson and shouted, “Catch it!” as the ball sailed directly to Rahat Ali at Deep Fine Leg.

Rahat should have taken it easily, but dropped it cold.

Riaz screamed in frustration.

Watson, on 4, thanked his lucky stars.

A wicket there, and Australia would have been in trouble at 83-4 chasing 213. Instead, Watson added another 60 and hit the winning runs, lifting Australia to 216-4 in the 34th over.

Glenn Maxwell, who ended up unbeaten on 44 from 29 balls, was also dropped off Riaz’s bowling when he was on 5.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said he could go into retirement confident that the bowling stocks were in good shape after watching Riaz unleash a performance that overshadowed the Australian pacemen.

“He was the best from all of the other bowlers who played today,” Misbah said. “Throughout the World Cup, he bowled really well, and you could rate him at the moment as one of the best bowlers in the world, [with] the kind of pace he’s generating and the way he’s bowling.”

Riaz, 2-14 off four overs, finished with 2-54 and 16 wickets in the tournament, including three in the pool-stage win over South Africa. His average of 23 was considerably better than his career average of 30.2 in 54 ODIs, and a sign he’s maturing as he approaches 30.

The left-arm fast bowler shouldered an extra load after Mohammad Irfan was sidelined by a fractured pelvis, and was let down by his fielding teammates.

“We needed wickets,” Misbah said. “For the country, he was just putting the full effort, trying to take wickets, and he just bowled excellent.

“At one stage we were pretty much in the game, and the way he was bowling, that catch could have made a big difference, but this is the way it is.”

Even Clarke made a point of noting the pace and tenacity of Riaz.

“That’s as good as I’ve faced in one-day cricket for a long time, no doubt about it,” said Clarke, who was out for 8 fending away a short ball. “He didn’t bowl too many bouncers that weren’t on the money.

“Obviously, credit to [Watson], the way he hung in there. He had a bit of luck getting dropped at Fine Leg, but then he was able to get through that period and be there at the end.”

The Australians are still aiming to be there at the end of the tournament, but will need a win over defending champion India this week to reach the March 29 final.

For Misbah and Shahid Afridi, who guided Pakistan to the 2011 World Cup semifinals, the loss at the Adelaide Oval meant the end of their limited-overs international careers.

The 40-year-old Misbah said he was content with how Pakistan rallied after losing its two opening games to reach the knockout stage. He bowed out saying he hoped the younger players could get more exposure to high-level cricket to increase the standard of batting and fielding.

“The message for the youngsters is that if you really want to be there, to compete in the world, you have to really work hard,” he said. “That’s what we learned from all our greats.”

Misbah said he’d been motivated by “the kind of fighting spirit” he’d seen from the likes of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

“We need to just take that as example,” he said. “And if we really want to compete in the world, we have to be up there. This is the only way.”

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 12:24:01 AM |

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