September 7, 2002

Rain provides reprieve to Pakistan

The final ended with a whimper, rain having the final say, depriving Australia of a probable win, the no-result providing Pakistan a reprieve in the form of a shared PSO Trophy.

Two spells of rain interrupted Australia's chase of Pakistan's modest 227 with some gusto at Nairobi's Gymkhana club. The second of these brought the match to a premature close, with only 9.3 of the overs bowled and Australia well ahead of even the revised asking rate of 5 an over (210 off 42 overs) after the first interruption.

Abdul Razzaq's glorious late flourish had provided Pakistan an outside chance of making a famous comeback in the final of an otherwise most forgettable excursion in East Africa of what was supposed to be a home series. But Pakistan's erratic pace spearheads Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were totally unable to discipline themselves in terms of gifting deliveries and runs through no-balls and wides as well as bowling short and wide to get massacred by Ricky Ponting and Mathew Hayden.

When the rain struck for a second time, at 67 for 1 in 9.3 overs, the Aussies were indeed running away with the game. Skipper Ricky Ponting led from the front with a rapid 29, off only 33 balls, 4 fours, 1 magnificent six off Waqar Younis at mid-wicket. Mathew Hayden, Man of the Series with his most-prolific run-scoring, was not lagging that far behind, at 20 (24 balls, 3 fours), his best shot on the up and straight past the fence off Akram.

Pakistan frittered away the early initiative that Akram provided early on by castling the dangerous Adam Gilchrist through the gate in the very first over. That raised the hopes but his own errant ways (10 extras - 7 wides, 3no-balls) combined with his and Younis' continued inability to get the right line and length resulted in Ponting and Hayden carving them really bad.

With the bowling strength and variety of Pakistan, you never can be sure, for the ability to turn it around, no matter how hopeless the situation, is always there. But in this instance rain definitely provided the rescue.

Razzaq blast saves Pakistan's blushes:
With the exception of Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's upper and middle order was again a failure as the Aussie bowlers reduced it to 55 for 4. But Razzaq yet again displayed his awesome strokemaking prowess to give the Pakistan innings some impetus and respectability. With him going after the Aussie attack hammer and tongs, 87 runs were gathered in the last 10 overs to put 227 runs on the board, by far Pakistan's best in this tournament against the Aussies.

To Jason Gillespie's great relief, the last over was quite disappointing as Pakistan lost three wickets for just one run. But the rather tame close was no fault of Razzaq's (59, off only 43 balls, 5 fours, 3 sixes), as he was run out desperately trying to get to the batting crease. With Wasim and Waqar giving him his wickets, Gillespie walked away with another five-for, but this time at a hefty price of 70 runs.

As Afridi hoiked McGrath for a six at square leg and Anwar took two boundaries off Gillespie, Pakistan's start seemed promising when Younis won the toss and elected to bat. But it went haywire rather quickly, as Afridi was dismissed by McGrath. Shane Warne jumped high and handsome to bring off a spectular catch off a thick outside edge as Afridi wanted to club him straight.

Saeed Anwar (28, 33 balls, 6 fours) in the meanwhile again seemed to be in good nick, but he again squandered it, playing away from the body once too often, and this time the inside edge unerringly went straight into Gilchrist's gloves. Coming back after a lay-off, Inzamam-ul-Haq was distinctly unlucky as he was given leg before off an inside edge.

Two wickets in four balls, and Shoaib Malik (37, off 94 balls, 3 fours, 1 six) merely putting a premium on survival, the Aussie bowlers were absolutely on top. First McGrath and Gillespie and then Watson and Lee, all bowled excellent spells, but they were made to look even better because of an utterly defensive Malik monopolising the strike. He abhorred working the ball around, and resisted driving even the length deliveries.

Lee claimed Younis' wicket, and when he was finally opening up, having just driven Warne for a six over covers, Malik ran himself out. Misbah and Razzaq got together and picked up the scoring rate a trifle by rotating the strike and taking an occasional boundary here or there.

At the start of 41st over, Pakistan had recovered to 140 for five, and Misbah and Razzaq were all poised for an assault. Misbah took fours off Lee and Warne at point, reverse-sweeping the latter, to raise his 50 (off 73 balls, 6 fours), but was bowled off an inside edge off Lee.

With overs running out, Razzaq got into the act of giving momentum to scoring. Gillespie came back for his final spell and was ferociously hit for two fours to the extra cover fence. His next over, Razzaq tore into him, taking a six and a four at mid-wicket and finishing the over with another boundary at covers to take Pakistan soaring to 210. McGrath too was ripped apart as Razzaq clouted him for two sixes straight over the roof.

But for the last over's disappointment, Pakistan may have gotten few more. But since this has topped off their previous-best by some 100 runs, there was hope that it might inspire the mostly errant bowlers to do their bit. They weren't delivering, but then the rain saved them from the ignominy of a third straight defeat against the Aussies.

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