Australia clinch the series
Australia 379 and 1 for 127 (Ponting 62*, Hayden 56*) beat Pakistan 341 and 163 (Malik 41, McGrath 4-35) by 9 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In the end, it was a romp for Australia, as they brushed aside a potentially tricky target of 126 in a mere 27.5 overs to seal a nine-wicket win. Pakistan resisted briefly on the fourth morning, as Shoaib Malik braved a split webbing in his right hand to score a spirited 41 to lift the total to 163. Australia then lost an early wicket, but Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting rode their luck, batted aggressively and saw them home with an undefeated 116-run stand.
The margin of victory flattered Australia and was no indication of the how close the contest had been: Pakistan had the better of the exchanges on the first couple of days, but the match turned on its head after Damien Martyn's outstanding century, and Australia never let up once they had regained the initiative. The bowlers ensured that none of Pakistan's top order got among the runs, and then the batsmen took over in emphatic fashion, with Ponting finishing off the game in style, lofting Danish Kaneria for a straight six.
Australia have a history of botching up small fourth-innings targets - most recently at Mumbai against India last month - and Pakistan's hopes would have been high when Sami forced Justin Langer to nick a perfect delivery in the corridor in only the second over of the innings (1 for 11). However, that was as good as it got for Pakistan, as Hayden and Ponting took charge. Both missed no chance to attack the bowling: Shoaib Akhtar, bowling from a shortened run-up at only around 137 kmph, was repeatedly pulled for fours by Ponting, while Hayden neutralised Kaneria's threat by charging down the track and hitting straight back over the bowler's head.
Both batsmen survived a few close shaves, though. Hayden nearly fell to Akhtar for the fourth time in this series, but Yasir Hameed at point failed to scoop a low catch off a scooped drive, while Ponting was extremely lucky to survive an lbw shout off Kaneria when on 22 - Rudi Koertzen had earlier given Kamran Akmal out off a similar delivery by Shane Warne, but this time ruled in the batsman's favour. Kaneria repeatedly troubled both batsmen with his turn and accuracy but had nothing to show for it in his figures. Once the batsmen got past those early stutters, the runs started to flow: Hayden went past ten for the first time in the series, Ponting thrashed the attack around, and the result was a foregone conclusion.
Earlier, Pakistan had their moments with the bat too, adding 78 to their overnight total of 5 for 85. The chief protagonist was Malik, who battled his injury to score 41 fluent runs, adding 39 with Abdul Razzaq, who had recovered sufficiently from his bouts of dizziness to come out to bat and show more intent that he did in the first innings. There were five sixes in the morning session, all of them off Shane Warne, as the lower order offered more resistance than Australia might have hoped for.
The session started badly for Pakistan, when Malik retired hurt in the third over of the day after causing further damage to his injured hand, and Sami and Akmal left without significant contributions. At 7 for 101, Australia were eyeing a quick finish, but Malik returned to the crease, and with Razzaq, began a mini-revival. Both were largely cautious against the seamers, but unveiled their attacking intent against Warne. Razzaq, who had managed 4 from 76 balls in the first innings, got off the mark in style this time around, clubbing Warne over his head for a six off the seventh ball he faced.
Malik, meanwhile, showed visible discomfort when attempting the horizontal-bat strokes, but struck some clean blows down the ground, twice lofting Warne for sixes and once flicking him wide of mid-on for a superb four. Warne had bowled a magnificent spell to Yousuf Youhana yesterday, but struggled for penetration today, largely because Malik and Razzaq were extremely selective in going for their strokes: when they weren't tonking those sixes, they were studiously defending his mix of legspinners, sliders and top-spinners.
The stand was finally broken when Malik failed to clear Jason Gillespie at mid-on while trying another lofted drive (8 for 140). Glenn McGrath wrapped up the last two wickets quickly after that, before the batsmen came out and hammered away at the target to give Australia their eighth win in a row against Pakistan, leaving Yousuf Youhana and Bob Woolmer to reflect on a game of missed opportunities.
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo.