Australia clinch a low-scoring thriller
Australia 192 for 7 (Hayden 59, Lehmann 40, Symonds 36) beat Pakistan 175 (Youhana 43) by 17 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The only full match of the Videocon Cup ended with Australia underscoring their position as the finest team in international cricket. A stirring 17-run win over Pakistan in a low-scoring final showed that the Australians have the determination and nous to pull off victories even in conditions that did not suit them. Left to chase 193 on a dry, two-paced pitch, Pakistan imploded to 175 all out, failing to put together the partnerships that form the backbone of successful run-chases.
Even on this pitch, 193 was not a target that should have caused Pakistan the kind of grief it did. The manner in which Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed approached the task gave Bob Woolmer, the recently-appointed coach of Pakistan, reason to believe that his team had the maturity to adapt to the conditions and outsmart Australia. What followed the start blasted that theory out of the water.
Farhat and Hameed made 17 apiece and were back in the hutch three runs short of the 50 mark. Then Inzamam-ul-Haq attempted to deposit an innocuous Symonds offbreak into one of the 165 canals that wend through Amsterdam. The ball thudded into Brad Haddin's gloves, a huge appeal went up and so did David Shepherd's finger. Television replays showed that the ball had brushed Inzamam's trousers, and may have missed the edge. Inzamam (7) certainly wasn't happy with the decision, but the Australians were cock-a-hoop to have pegged back Pakistan to 65 for 3.
Inzamam trudged slowly off the field, handing over the responsibility of bolstering the batting to Yousuf Youhana, his deputy. Youhana, perhaps taking the task of filling Inzamam's boots a shade too literally, proceeded to run-out two of the best strikers of the ball in the Pakistan team. Malik, who had motored quietly on to 36, pushed a Lehmann delivery towards cover, and set off for a single. Wires crossed, and one hesitant moment later, Lehmann had collected the throw and whipped the bails off (93 for 4). Off the very next ball, Youhana dabbed to cover, and the same mid-pitch deliberations happened, resulting in Shahid Afridi being run out without facing a ball (93 for 5).
With half the team gone, the outlook was bleak. This Australian team only needs to sniff a chance, and they move in for the kill. Abdul Razzaq and Youhana strung together a 61-run partnership - Pakistan's only 50-plus stand of the innings - but when the required run-rate crept up on them, they hit the panic button. Razzaq (26) launched into a big shot and holed out to Michael Clarke at long-off (154 for 6).
Soon after, Youhana swung a short one from Brad Hogg to the square-leg fence, and perished off the next ball. He tried to turn a ball to the onside, but did not make clean contact, and the ball popped up to the keeper. Shepherd was involved in his second iffy piece of action for the day, and Youhana (43) had to go. While two sounds were audible on television replays as the ball passed Youhana, they could easily have been the ball rapping pad and thigh. Either way, Pakistan were 161 for 7, and on the way to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
The last three wickets added just four more runs, and Australia had rolled Pakistan over for 175, winning by 17 runs. And to think that earlier in the day, it was Pakistan who held all the aces, even after Australia won the toss and chosen to bat. There are pitches on which you need to put away the big shots - stow away the broadswords and bring out the rapiers. This, a strip not played on in the tournament so far, was one such. The wettest August in Amstelveen since 1912 meant that the outfield was slow, further hampered by the liberal spreading of sawdust, and the pitch had a spongy, tennis-ball bounce to it.
Only three batsmen of the much-vaunted Australian line-up gained some measure of the pitch. Matthew Hayden leaned heavily on reserves of patience he usually does not have to call up; Lehmann unveiled his full quiver of eccentric arrows; and Symonds clinically pulled off the only big hits of the innings. Between them they scored 135 of 175 runs that came off the bat.
After the fall of the first two wickets, caused by some strangling Pakistani quick bowling, Hayden and Lehmann came together. Promoted up the order to try and reverse the momentum, Lehmann dug deep into his reserve of experience and showed how it was possible to score runs. Hayden had been bogged down in a manner not seen in years. His trademark approach of bullying bowlers into submission simply was not on, and he could barely get on the front foot with any conviction.
Lehmann, however, had no problem committing to the front or the back foot. In fact he didn't bother. Instead, he exaggerated his already peculiar habit of standing well outside the leg stump and walking across. He shuffled, shimmied and wandered more than even Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and irritated the bowlers no end. On one occasion, he made enough room to free his arms and club Shoaib Akhtar back over his head. On another he rushed across the breadth of the crease to slash Malik backward of square for four. No two shots were alike, and the runs began to come, even if it was in trickles rather than torrents.
Hayden, breathing easier for the constant rotating of the strike, moved on to his fifty. But it did not come easily and took all of 105 balls. The boundaries were still hard to come by, and Hayden only managed four in his innings of 59 (114 balls) before an attempted big hit off Shoaib was caught by Hameed in the midwicket region. By this time the Hayden-Lehmann pair had added 61 for the third wicket and pushed the score on to 126.
Symonds replaced Hayden and the gears changed immediately. While Lehmann was pickpocketing the change, Symonds burgled the big ones. He chalked out the bowlers to attack, the areas to target, and swung his heavy bat with clinical precision. Malik was at the receiving end of a mighty thump that sent the ball over long-on and out of the ground. When the ball was full, Symonds jammed the bat hard and it raced away to the square boundary.
In 12.1 overs Australia had added 57, when Lehmann (40 from 68 balls) fell, nicking Shabbir to the keeper (183 for 4). Lehmann's innings had put Australia in touching distance of 200, a sizeable score in these conditions. But the fall of Symonds soon after, bowled by Shoaib for 36, ensured that Australia were kept under 200. Mohammad Sami wrapped up a clever performance while Shoaib (3 for 40) capitalised on some late-order mayhem.
But, on a day when Pakistan's batsmen had to stand up and be counted, they were a bundle of jangled nerves, and Australia capitalised.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.