Australia survive late scare

Pakistan 205-6 Australia 206-8 <i>(Australia win by two wickets)</i>
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Weary and longing desperately for home they may be, but Australia will be going nowhere quietly. Combative to the last, they squeaked home against Pakistan yesterday in a nerve shredding finale and finished their Champions Trophy group campaign undefeated.

The tie was decided off the last ball when Australia, eight wickets down, ran a bye to the wicketkeeper. At 187 for 8, still needing 19 to win, it had looked all up for them but somehow they resisted Pakistan's revival.

The ninth wicket pair, Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz, held their nerve and their luck. They ran hard and determinedly and considering the sluggish scoring rates all day, took an improbable 18 from the final three overs, just when it looked as though they had forgotten how to lay bat on ball.

How the match had turned. Australia, once 140 for 2, had gone to 174 for 4 in the 41st over with Mike Hussey looking almost serene on 64 and about to see them home. He then received a swinging yorker from Rana Naved which burst through his defences and was gone for 64.

In Pakistan something stirred. Already through to the semi-finals, they should be as fresh as daisies considering the limited amount of cricket they have played lately but there was a lassitude about much of their batting and the early part of the Australian innings when they fielded.

But now, sensing an Australian stagger, they took four wickets for 13 runs, the last three in seven balls.

The upshot of Australia hanging on is that in winning by two wickets and topping group A, Australia will now play England (again) in the semi-finals at Centurion tomorrow. Had the match been a tie the positions would have been reversed and Pakistan would have played England.

It was probably unreasonable to expect Pakistan could replicate the glittering form they displayed in the match against India last Saturday. The circumstances were different, the opposition was different, the surface was different, the atmosphere was different.

But they were strangely diffident and long before the middle of the innings they had retrenched. It was not exactly stultifying but it was never entertaining. The largest partnership of the innings was of 63 for the fifth wicket between Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah-il-Haq.

Australia paced their reply accordingly. But it so nearly went awry.

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