Cricket: Wasim devastates Australia

Cricket World Cup: Defeat leaves co-favourites in danger of going out as India keep their hopes alive with first win
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Pakistan 275-8 Australia 265 Pakistan win by 10 runs

AUSTRALIA BEGAN the World Cup as joint favourites with South Africa but after falling to their second defeat here yesterday no longer look a safe bet even to reach the second phase. Even were they to sneak into the Super Six by beating West Indies and Bangladesh in their remaining games, they may find themselves with no points to carry forward. On the other hand, Pakistan, with three wins out of three, look formidable contenders.

Pakistan were fined 20 per cent of their match fees after their victory over Australia finished in semi-darkness at Headingley last night, opening a new debate over penalties against teams who fail to bowl 50 overs within the allotted time.

Under the World Cup rules, any team bowling first that fails to deliver 50 overs before the 2.15pm lunch interval is penalised by a corresponding reduction in the number of overs at the disposal of their batsmen. India, for example, were allowed only 46 overs to chase their target against Zimbabwe last week in a match they ultimately lost.

However, Australia yesterday gained nothing from Pakistan's tardy over- rate, even though only 46 overs had been bowled when the match was scheduled to finish at 6.30pm. Instead, Australia had to contend with a swinging ball in poor light and failed to reach their target. "It is something that needs to be looked at," the Australian captain, Steve Waugh, said afterwards. "The side batting second is at a disadvantage definitely. It was hard for our guys to face a ball that was reverse swinging in that light."

Despite Australia's defeat, however, Waugh refused to write off his side's chances of turning what has so far proved a poor World Cup for the joint- favourites into a successful one. "We may have to win seven games to win the World Cup but we are capable of doing that," he said. "Today we played a lot better than in our previous matches, which is encouraging. I believe we can reach the second phase and we'll see what happens after that. People are already writing us off but that kind of thing can motivate players."

The Pakistan captain, Wasim Akram, after a match-winning 4 for 40, reiterated his complaint about poor practice facilities at county grounds and paid tribute to his team's "dedication to the cause" in overcoming the difficulties they have faced. "All we want is for there to be one decent net for us at each venue, which I would not think was too much to ask in a World Cup."

Meanwhile, the match referee, Raman Subba Row, said that Pakistan's young pace bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, would receive an "unofficial rocket" following verbal exchanges with Waugh during the Australian captain's innings. "There was a bit of a shouting match going on and although the umpires did not want any official action against Shoaib he will be receiving an official rocket from me."

Wasim confirmed that he had asked Shoaib to calm down. "He is a fast bowler, he is a bit headstrong," Wasim said.

In a splendidly tense contest on a good wicket Australia ran Pakistan mightily close. Even with the ball swinging and the failing light, the outcome was always in the balance as a succession of partnerships maintained Australia's hopes.

First, Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting's stand of 91 for the second wicket negated the loss of Adam Gilchrist to the third ball of the innings. Then, after Saqlain Mushtaq had removed Ponting and Darren Lehmann in the space of three deliveries to leave Australia teetering at 101 for 4, the Australian captain and Michael Bevan put them back in pole position with a 21-over partnership of 113.

Even when Wasim, repeating the pattern of his first spell, had Bevan caught at point with the third delivery of his second, Australia were still favourites, needing 58 from eight overs. But wickets thereafter came at steady intervals and Australia were not able to regain their momentum.

Shoaib, frustrated at his lack of success, decisively bowled Waugh - dropped two balls earlier - to deny the captain a half-century. Then Saqlain (3 for 51) claimed his third success when Paul Reiffel top-edged to square leg and Shane Warne, imploring Damien Martyn to take a risk, was run out.

With two overs left, 20 runs were needed; off the last, 13. Still Australia had a chance. But the last word went to Wasim, bowling Martyn with the third ball and then - after several stumps disappeared in the ensuing excitement when supporters invaded the pitch - Glenn McGrath with his fifth, clinching Pakistan's victory by 10 runs. With that, pandemonium. Stewards appeared from all angles to rescue the players as Pakistan's flag-waving masses swarmed over the field.

Pakistan had built their formidable total around the fourth-wicket partnership between Inzamam-ul-Haq and the 19-year-old all-rounder Abdur Razzaq, who put on 118. But it was the aggression of the middle order that ensured Pakistan drew maximum benefit from their diligence.

In the closing 10 overs their total grew by 108 runs, of which 58 accrued from the last five alone as Australia's bowlers took a battering, none more so than McGrath, who suffered the indignity of being hit for six three times during his last spell.

The damage was done first by Yousuf Youhana, with 29 off just 15 balls, then wicketkeeper Moin, whose 31 spanned only 12 and included three sixes, and finally by Wasim with 13 from 12 deliveries.

Australia's hopes of restricting Pakistan were foiled by some uncharacteristic sloppy fielding when with the score on 87 Inzamam and Razzaq somehow ended up at the same end, but somehow survived. That somehow signposted Australia's demise.

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