February 11, 2003

Convincing win for Australia despite controversies

A World Cup match that had all the ingredients of another spectacular was upset at first by Shane Warne's return to Australia and then the controversy surrounding Pakistan captain Waqar Younis being banned from completing his bowling spell by umpire David Shepherd.

The Pakistan bowlers had started the day full of fire but as things began to turn, frustration set in with Andrew Symonds thrashing the bowlers to all parts of the ground.

It all came to a head in the 49th over of the Australian innings. The first ball slipped out of Younis's hand narrowly missing Symonds on strike. All seemed to be fine with Younis apologising and Symonds accepting. The reply from Symonds was lofting the second ball over the ropes at long on.

The fourth ball however once again targeted the head of Symonds with the batsman ducking and diving to avoid being hit. A heated verbal confrontation followed between batsman and bowler. Umpire Shepherd immediately intervened to severely censure the captain for his conduct and removed him from the attack. Without showing any remorse, Younis threw the ball to Afridi and walked away with the loud disapproval of 25,500 spectators ringing in his ears.

Symonds had come to the crease with Australia deep in trouble at 86 for four. Having not shown much form coming into the tournament he proceeded to show why he is rated so highly by the Australians. A powerful hitter of the ball, he started slowly but once he got into stride and after the departure of Ricky Ponting he thrashed the ball to all corners of a packed Wanderers.

His first fifty came up in 60 balls and included eight fours while the second fifty took just 32 balls and included a further seven fours. Once past the hundred, his first in one-day internationals, he made sure he batted through the innings to end undefeated on 143, the highest score by an Australian in World Cups.

There is no doubt that his innings contributed largely to the frustration in the Pakistan camp. The bowling deteriorated throughout the match with the fielding suffering accordingly.

Once again Australia had shown their uncanny ability of placing the opposition under pressure and increasing it as the match goes on. With early wickets falling they continued to bat at above five runs to the over.

The innings had started with Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar working up a Head of steam and being rewarded with the wickets of Adam Gilchrist for one, Matthew Hayden for 27 and Damien Martyn without scoring while Jimmy Maher succumbed to Younis for nine.

Ponting, in the meantime, was steering the innings to safer ground before finding a willing partner in Symonds. Their 60-run partnership was all that Australia needed to turn on the screws. Ponting, a class act, scored 53 from 67 balls and took his team out of danger.

The fifty-run partnerships between Symonds and Brad Hogg, and Symonds and Harvey saw Australia reach 310 for eight, the highest one-day international score at the Wanderers.

With Pakistan having given away 21 runs in no balls and wides it was no surprise when they were fined one over for a slow over rate.

The Pakistan innings never got off the ground. Wickets fell at regular intervals with batsmen failing to convert good starts into big scores.

Saleem Elahi worked his way to 30 while Yousuf Youhana looked the part while getting 27. Younis Khan was solid for 19 while Abdur Razzaq always threatening with 25.

A flurry in the latter stages of the match saw Rashid Latif and Wasim Akram entertain the spectators with some lusty blows, striking four fours and four sixes in a partnership of 54 in five overs.

By this stage, however, the game was virtually won and lost and Pakistan eventually capitulated for 228 in 44.3 overs, losing by 82 runs.

The Australian bowling was of their normal standard, tight and unforgiving with Hogg picking up three wickets and Harvey four, but it was the fielding that will be remembered for two marvellous catches.

The first was when Youhana pulled a short ball from Harvey that seemed safe until Symonds came charging in off the boundary, diving forward full length to take a two-handed catch inches off the grass.

The second, and to finish the match came when Younis unleashed a cracker of a drive off the bowling of Harvey. It had four written all over it until, from out of nowhere, McGrath threw himself full length to his left and plucked the ball, two foot off the ground, out of the air.

A polished performance from a professional side that is going to take a lot of beating during this tournament.