ADELAIDE: Australia trio of Josh Hazlewood, Steven Smith and Shane Watson produced sterling performances under intense pressure to guide favorites Australia into the semi-final of ICC Cricket World Cup when they routed Pakistan by six wickets in the quarter-final here at the Adelaide Oval on Friday despite fearsome and fiery bowling by Wahab Riaz.
Paceman Josh Hazlewood snapped-up four wickets for 34 runs in ten overs as Australia dismissed Pakistan for 213 runs on the penultimate ball of 50th over.
Smith smashed an awesome 65 off 69 balls with seven boundaries, Watson blasted an undefeated 64 in 66 balls, hoisting one six and hitting seven boundaries while Glenn Maxwell returned on an undefeated on 44 in 29 balls with five fours and brace of sixes as Australia raced to victory with almost 16 overs to spare.
However Micheal Clarke’s Australian team must thank Rahat Ali and Sohail Khan for spilling two vital catches in a tight situation which could change the course of the match in Pakistan’s favor.
Left arm pace bowler, Wahab Riaz delivered one of the most fearsome spells in World Cup history but Australia, helped by some shoddy Pakistan fielding, weathered the storm and set up a semi-final showdown with India.
Chasing 214 to win this quarter-final, Australians were in deep trouble at 59 for 3 in 17th over.
Wahab delivered a bouncer barrage to Shane Watson but, like earlier in the day, Watson wobbled but did not fall, and struck winning runs.
The key moment came when Wahab’s efforts led to a top edge from Watson that flew high to fine leg, where Rahat Ali contrived to drop the simplest of chances and all the pressure went away.
It was unceremonious end to the one-day careers of captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi after this disappointing defeat.
Misbah made 34 runs and Afridi got 23 and ended with none for 20 in three over. Thus ended with just two wickets in seven matches.
Misbah was always in the game, though, his 34 helping to rebuild Pakistan’s innings by adding 73 runs for third wicket with Haris Sohail. Pakistan has lost Sarfraz Ahmed (10) and Ahmed Shahzad (5) with 24 runs on the board at the start of 6th over.
But so Misbah was as the pressure built on Australia. Wahab’s initial six-over spell brought him two wickets for 24 runs. David Warner cut to third man and Michael Clarke fended a short one to a man in close. The Clarke wicket was indicative of Pakistan’s approach, and it only became clearer when Watson arrived.
Wahab fizzed bouncer after bouncer at Watson’s head and chest; Watson ducked and fended awkwardly. He scored only four times off Wahab in that spell, one flew off the shoulder of the bat short of third man.
At the other end, Smith batted calmly compiling runs, cover driving with exquisite timing and placement. In terms of fluency, watching Smith and Watson batting together was contrasting.
But once Wahab was too exhausted to continue, Watson was a different batsman. He immediately pulled Sohail Khan for four, and the runs began to flow. Smith fittingly brought up his half-century with a superb cover drive for four off Rahat from his 51st delivery, but was eventually lbw to Ehsan Adil walking across his stumps for 65.
Maxwell joined Watson after the 89-run Smith-Watson stand and played some spectacular shots including a flyer to Sohail put down at third man. Typically, it was off a Wahab short ball.
Pakistan’s fielding was poor, but their biggest problem was their batting. Eight batsmen reached double figures but nobody scored a fifty.
Once a solid 73-run stand between Misbah and Haris Sohail was broken, it was a steady decline. Still, from 24 for 2 in the sixth over, they were perhaps fortunate to even breach 200.
Misbah started slowly and looked set to perform yet another rescue mission, and together with Haris frustrated the Australians.
Ultimately, though, it was Pakistan who was frustrated. Trying to lift the run rate, Misbah fell for 34 off 59 deliveries, and was followed soon after by a flat-footed Haris, who edged behind off Mitchell Johnson for 41 off 57.
Pakistan batsmen followed each other senselessly into oblivion by slogging to the man at deep midwicket.
Misbah was the leader of the flock. Twice he had cleared the midwicket boundary off Maxwell, but when he tried for a third he managed only a top edge that was comfortably taken by Aaron Finch, who ended with three catches in the match.
Perhaps tempted by the short square boundaries, Umar Akmal also sent a catch straight to Finch at deep midwicket off Maxwell. Then it was Afridi, who miscued his pull off Josh Hazlewood and was well caught by Finch above his head back near the boundary. Akmal had made 20 off 25, Afridi had struck 23 off 15. If it is Afridi’s final ODI innings, it was at least a typical one.
A 30-run stand between Sohaib Maqsood and Wahab briefly annoyed the Australians, although mostly because so many balls whizzed past their outside edges. The seeds for Wahab’s aggressive bowling might have been sowed when Mitchell Starc seemed to advise him that the ball was white, and he should try to hit it. There was some tension at the time, though they were sharing a smile or two soon after.
Sohaib Maqsood fell for 29 when he slashed Hazlewood to point, and Wahab was gone for 16 when he edged behind off Starc. Hazlewood had moved the ball early and finished with 4 for 35, justifying the decision of the selectors to recall him ahead of Pat Cummins, and Starc bowled well for his two wickets for 40 runs to end with event’s highest taker with 18.
Pakistan limped to the 50th over but 213 after Misbah had won the toss and elected to bat on lively track.