(Championspk)The evidence suggests a widening gulf between the top four sides in this competition and the rest. South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have pace attacks sufficiently potent to avoid having to fret how to survive the final 15 overs in the field. They have the firepower to keep striving for wickets and, by and large, they succeed. Meanwhile, India are galvanised by the fact that this is the World Cup, not another routine ODI in some foreign clime.
Pakistan lack the ammunition of these sides. Misbah-ul-Haq took the brave and obvious choice of batting first even though there was more grass and therefore more pace on this pitch than in the old days. But despite reaching the relative serenity of 97 for two, Pakistan could muster only 213 by the time they were bowled out in the final over.
So far the quarter-finals of the World Cup have been as surprising as rain in Manchester. The favourites always win and this time it was the Australian juggernaut, which rumbled on with just a few alarms, that will be noted by their future opponents.
Those alarms were caused by Wahab Riaz, the left-arm paceman, who charged in, propelling superbly directed bouncers at every Australia batsman at the other end. During that time Wahab dismissed David Warner and Michael Clarke, and for a while he tormented Shane Watson, who was badly dropped on the long-leg boundary by Rahat Ali when on four. Pakistan, defending a paltry 213, did not have the leeway for mistakes like that.
In the end Australia, grateful for the composure and expertise of Steve Smith, cruised to a six-wicket victory with 16.1 overs to spare. They meet India in the Sydney semi-final on Thursday.
Their opening pair fell to neat slip catches, which reflect the excellence of Australia’s out-cricket. Then a partnership of 73 between Haris Sohail and Misbah gave Pakistan hope. Australia’s bowlers allowed few liberties and perhaps the Pakistan middle order was beguiled by the famous short boundaries of the Adelaide Oval. Most critically Misbah, who had hit the off-breaks of Glenn Maxwell for two sixes, aimed for another and presented Aaron Finch with one of his three catches on the boundary edge.
No one could exceed Sohail’s 41 and Pakistan’s last pair were left to cobble together 18 runs from the final six
overs. Australia had preferred Josh Hazlewood to the quicker Pat Cummins and this proved to be a good idea. Hazlewood finished with four for 35. Mitchell Starc took two more wickets to take his tally in the tournament to 18 at an average of 9.77.
None of the Australia bowlers were collared and the view at the break, even among non-Australians, was that Pakistan’s target was woefully small.
But for a while Wahab, a passionate and provocative a paceman as they come, took a different view. Despite the loss of Finch lbw to Sohail Khan, a dismissal that betrayed his lack of form and the fact Warner will never take up a career as an umpire in years to come (Warner advised a review and the ball was hitting the middle of middle), Australia were racing along when Wahab was tossed the ball.