Australia qualify despite big defeat

The 32-run margin to Pakistan meant that India had to win by a wide margin against South Africa in order to elbow their way past Mohammad Hafeez’s team into a semi-final spot. Such a scenario would have been undeserved by Raza Hasan and Saeed Ajmal in particular, who tied Australia in the kinds of knots previously unseen at this tournament.

Australia’s first loss of the tournament reopened their former doubts when confronted by quality spin on a slow, turning pitch, and also demonstrated the chaos that can ensue if Shane Watson and David Warner do not give the innings a rapid start. Pakistan did not use a paceman until the 18th over of the innings, and other nations can be expected to use similar tactics against Australia for the remainder of the event. In the end it took a half century of considerable composure from Michael Hussey to ensure Australia’s qualification.

Their inability to seriously challenge a middling tally will sound a note of warning for Australia’s coaches, who also had the odd lapse in the field to ruminate on. Mitchell Starc had pinned Pakistan’s captain Mohammad Hafeez lbw with his first ball to push the batsmen onto the defensive, and should also have dismissed Nasir Jamshed for a duck. But Glenn Maxwell dropped the catch at slip, allowing Jamshed to go on to an important 55.

Pakistan’s innings went on in fits and starts, pinned down by Starc, Watson and Xavier Doherty, but scoring freely from Pat Cummins and Brad Hogg.

Australia’s in-form openers Watson and Warner walked out to face the sort of target they had devoured in previous matches, also aware that reaching 112 would guarantee a higher run-rate than Pakistan and thus a place in the semi-finals. Warner swung Hafeez wide of midwicket for a boundary in the first over and the match seemed likely to follow a familiar path. But Hasan’s left-arm spin proved difficult to bully, and Hafeez improved on his start.

Warner might easily have been lbw in the third over to Hafeez, but Pakistan were compensated in the fourth when Hasan pinned Watson in front of leg stump, sweeping. Watson’s demise for his lowest score of the tournament by a distance changed the complexion of the chase.

Cameron White and Maxwell both perished trying to swing for the fences, and at 65 for 5 Australia were not only facing defeat but also a thrashing by such a margin that their place in the tournament would be in doubt.Hafeez soon had his revenge on Warner, winning an lbw appeal when the batsman attempted a slog sweep, leaving Hussey and George Bailey to negotiate an increasingly confident Pakistani spin ensemble. They survived for a time, but Bailey followed one six with two attempts to pull Ajmal – the first nearly lbw, the second clearly so.

Hussey and Matthew Wade combined for a partnership that accepted the humbler goal of passing 112, a tally they were within two runs of when Wade was confounded and bowled by Ajmal. Next ball Cummins completed an ordinary match by misreading the doosra, but Hussey cut the first ball of the final over to the boundary to ensure qualification. He pumped his fist in recognition of the moment, but Australia go into the knockout round with an aura somewhat diminished.

Bailey had sent Pakistan in to bat and, as he had done against South Africa, Doherty took the new ball with his left-arm spin, though this time there were no immediate wickets. Instead it was Starc who struck early, curling his first delivery unerringly into the front pad of Hafeez for the most palpable decision Richard Kettleborough will give at this tournament.

Starc should have had another wicket two balls later when Jamshed squeezed a full delivery straight to first slip. Maxwell seemed a little surprised to see the chance come his way, and dropped it. This would prove a costly lapse by an Australian side that has made remarkably few across the tournament.

Initially, though, Pakistan were kept quiet by Bailey’s bowling changes and fields. Imran Nazir made a fairly subdued 14 before miscuing a Watson full toss to mid-off, and Jamshed took his time getting comfortable, surviving one concerted caught behind appeal from the bowling of Hogg.

Jamshed gradually found his rhythm, and a pair of sixes from Cummins and Doherty helped form the foundations of a threatening stand with Kamran Akmal. At 103 for 2 after 14 overs, Pakistan were well placed, but the innings then veered sharply off course.

Jamshed heaved at Doherty but failed to clear long-on, and next over Kamran drove Starc straight to cover, reacting with disbelief having done so. The recalled Abdul Razzaq was preferred to Shahid Afridi at No. 6 in a curious batting order choice, and the final total looked mediocre. That it ultimately proved to be more than enough was testament to the quality of spin delivered by Hasan and Ajmal.

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