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Rediff.com  » Sports » Last-ball win puts Australia in semis

Last-ball win puts Australia in semis

Last updated on: September 30, 2009 22:14 IST

- Scorecard

Aussies celebrate in the fieldDefending champions Australia pulled off a dramatic last-ball victory over Pakistan to romp into the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy and bring a premature end to India's listless campaign in the tournament, in Centurion, on Wednesday.

In a low-scoring thriller, the Australians won by two wickets off the last ball, thanks to a gritty showing by their tail-enders.

In a must-win encounter, Australia first restricted Pakistan to a modest 205 for six and then just about scampered 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 the fall of five wickets completely changed 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 tense Australian dressing room.

The Aussies, who had earlier defeated the West Indies and taken a point from their washed-out match against India, completed their Group A engagements with five points. The World champions finished ahead of Pakistan, who had four.

They will play traditional rivals England in the first semi-final on October 2.

In the second semi-final, Pakistan will clash with New Zealand in Johannesburg the next day.

It was a disciplined bowling display by the Australians, who exploited the conditions well to restrict the free-flowing Pakistani batsmen. Only Kamran Akmal (44), Mohammad Yousuf (45) and Misbah-ul Haq (41) could make sizeable contributions.

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 semi-finals.

Akmal's knock, during which he struck six boundaries, helped Pakistan recover from early jolts, while Yousuf held 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.

The other opener, Akmal, then paired up with skipper Younis Khan (18 off 49) to stitch 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 to bottom-edge the ball, which then fell onto the base of his leg stump.

The Australians, including the new-ball pair of Brett Lee and Siddle, maintained good line and length from the very beginning to keep Pakistan's 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 were 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 run-rate 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 in when Australia were at 59 for two and joined hands with Michael Hussey to add 81 runs to the board.

Ponting (32), who struck just one boundary during his 64-ball stay, made a 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) after just three balls in the same over.

However, Lee and Hauritz held their nerve to complete the task for Australia.