Symonds and Lee put Australia one-up
Australia 237 (Symonds 91, Martyn 53, Razzaq 3-33) beat Pakistan 9 for 219 (Malik 66, Inzamam 51) by 18 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath devastated Pakistan's top order after Andrew Symonds corrected an early batting wobble and helped Australia take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three VB Series finals at the MCG. Lee provided the pace and McGrath the accuracy to strike three times in the first three overs, and put Pakistan on the defensive immediately.
As hard as Pakistan tried through Inzamam-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi, whose flame was short and bright, they were unable to rise from the dreadful start. Both sides struggled in the opening ten overs on a pitch offering valuable bowling help, but Pakistan experienced the greater danger.
The memory of Lee swiftly charging in to bowl at 150kph will linger for a long time in the minds of the batsmen and spectators. Lee struck in his first and third overs with beautiful deliveries to remove Salman Butt leg-before - although Butt insisted he hit it - and clean-bowl the in-form Yousuf Youhana (3 for 9). In between, McGrath, playing his 200th match, dismissed Kamran Akmal to a lazy pull for his 299th career wicket. He became the eighth bowler to collect 300 when Mohammad Hafeez skyed a pull that had much height and little distance, which Shane Watson took easily (4 for 27).
McGrath's record was one of a small collection of fine displays that were scattered around an unusual number of stumbles in the showpiece event. The occasion visibly affected both sides, but Australia's fright at 3 for 53 was settled by Symonds's brutal and sensible 91, and then vanquished by their opening bowlers.
Inzamam and Malik played themselves in before swinging to pick up Pakistan. Both registered half-centuries in a futile fightback. The runs were made carefully, but when it was time to let loose they could not keep pace. Lee came back in the 31st over and soon added the crucial wicket of Inzamam (5 for 118). Inzamam has been the most consistent player of the series with five fifties, but Pakistan needed his first century.
In desperation, Malik and Afridi spectacularly opened their shoulders and cleared the rope before failing in the delicate balance to keep their heads. Malik found Darren Lehmann at mid-off and when Simon Katich caught Afridi, who chopped 26 from 15 balls, in the deep the match was decided (8 for 171). Lee finished with the satisfying figures of 3 for 23 off 10 overs but Symonds was Man of the Match.
While Australia's fast bowlers were in step, they were given initial breathing space by Symonds, who showed what a difference a medal can make. Before winning the Australia One-Day Player of the Year award on Monday, he had five ducks in six innings and was lined up for plucking alongside the dropped Matthew Hayden.
In 50 overs of up-and-down cricket, Symonds hauled Australia to safety after the top three were sent packing, but on his departure at 213, the innings was once again unsteady. Afridi and Abdul Razzaq, who were both on hat-tricks, were responsible for curtailing the galloping in a team performance that contained moments of brilliance, crazy lapses and a collision. The upshot was a restricted total of 237 that supporters of the underdog believed was a job well done.
Symonds' self-belief was quickly evident when he warmed up with two powerful off-drives and a pull, and he looked as dangerous as during his 143 not out against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup. With his helmet covering the frizzy hair that would make Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons break into song, Symonds became the main event. He was strong and delicate in hitting seven fours in a display that Australian fans had waited for all summer.
Afridi was the only bowler to really trouble Symonds, who survived a couple of strong lbw appeals - the umpires were reluctant to raise their fingers throughout the innings. Symonds and Damien Martyn shone in a 137-run partnership that steadied the rocking innings. Martyn was the support act for his partner's attacks and managed a smart 53 without a boundary until he was stumped off Afridi (4 for 190). Darren Lehmann replaced Martyn and was caught-behind first ball to an embarrassing reverse-sweep.
Michael Clarke was preferred to the out-of-form Hayden as opener, but the move was less successful than Hayden's series average of 10.5. After a rocky start in swinging conditions it was Clarke who was out for 9, lbw playing back to Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, who stayed on tour rather than return for his father's funeral (1 for 29). Adam Gilchrist went to a fine jumping catch by Razzaq. He and Ricky Ponting were unsettled in strange cases of early nerves on the big stage.
Naved had an eventful match along with his bowling team-mate Mohammad Khalil. The pair collided in the field, forcing Khalil off to hospital for X-rays on a suspected dislocated shoulder. Naved then combined for a gallant 45-run partnership with Iftikhar Anjum at the close. Pakistan's response against the world champions was brave, but again the challengers fell short.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo.