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COLOMBO: Pakistan spun themselves into semifinals contention after putting it across Australia by 32 runs in their last Super Eights match here, on Tuesday. With Australia through and South Africa out, India and Pakistan are now vying for one semifinal spot from Group 2, with India's fate firmly in their own hands. The Men in Blue now have to defeat South Africa by 31 runs or by 24 balls get ahead of Pakistan's net run rate and slip ahead to the semis.
Australia meanwhile qualified for the last four by virtue of getting to the 112-run quasi target against Pakistan, which hitched up their net run rate above and beyond the reach of the other teams in Group 2. Pakistan had set them 150 to win after George Bailey sent them in, and Australia reached the crucial 112 mark when Michael Hussey (54*) spanked a boundary off Umar Gul in the last over of the chase.
Spearhead Gul had been introduced into the attack as late as the 18th over, as Pakistan sought to defend 149-6, a total realised through the fortuitous Nasir Jamshed's 55, through their battalion of tweakers. Jamshed was dropped when he was on zero, but thwarted the Aussie quicks after the earlier retraining order that the pacemen, particularly Mithcell Starc, had put on Pakistan's top order. With victory imperative, Mohammad Hafeez opened the bowling for Pakistan with his off spinners, but it was Hasan Raza, later named Man of the Match for figures of 4-0-14-2, who got the breakthrough with his left-arm spin when he trapped Shane Watson leg before in the fourth over.
David Warner too perished to the sweep - off Hafeez - and Australia were without the services of their dangerous openers within the first five overs. Saeed Ajmal came on and trapped skipper Bailey in front, and wickets kept toppling as Cameron White and Glenn Maxwell surrendered their scalps to the guiles of Hafeez and Hasan respetively. Australia crumbled to 65-5 in the 14th over and even 112 looked distant at that point. Who else but Michael Hussey could have taken them home from there! Mr. Cricket did it again with a sparkling unbeaten 54, a 47-ball knock that was the need of the hour. Although Australia were dealt their first defeat of the tournament, Hussey, despite Ajmal's frightening double strike in the 19th over, carried his team to semifinal safety with characteristic class.
Pakistan hustled by pace
Earlier, Pakistan posted 149-6 thanks to a brisk half-century by left-handed Jamshed after Australia sent them in. Jamshed (55) was dropped on nought by Glenn Maxwell at first slip, and continued to torment Australia by adding 79 in 9.1 overs with Kamran Akmal (32). Australia kept Pakistan on a tight leash for the most part. Mitchell Starc was quick and drew first blood when he trapped skipper Hafeez lbw with his first ball and would have claimed Jamshed for a duck, but Maxwell fluffed it at at slip.
Xavier Doherty had opened the bowling for Australia with his left-arm spin, but George Bailey kept ringing in the bowling changes, not allowing the batsmen to settle down, Imran Nazir scored 14 before spooning a Shane Watson full toss to mid off. Jamshed then got into his groove, pulling a slower Pat Cummins bouncer for six and clearing the midwicket ropes off Doherty.
Watson came back in the 13th over and was greeted by a four. In the next over, Bradd Hogg's left-armers were flat-batted over long on for six by Kamran Akmal. Jamshed was out soon, holing out to long on off Doherty and Pakistan lost their other set batsman on the same score when Kamran timed Starc sweetly to extra cover, leaving Pakistan on 123-4 in the 16th over. Abdul Razzaq, in the side for Yasir Arafat, smacked a quick 22, including a six despatched over long on off a Cummins slower ball, before the innings concluded on 149-6. Starc bowled superbly for Australia, picking up three wickets for 20 in four overs.