Razzaq helps Pakistan clinch a thriller
Pakistan 7 for 266 (Youhana 72, Razzaq 63*) beat Australia 265 (Clarke 75*, Razzaq 4-53) by 3 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In a game that seesawed, with the initiative being more often given up by Pakistan than wrested away by Australia, Pakistan managed to hold their nerve and win by three wickets. A spirited showing with the ball ensured that Australia were kept down to 265 at the WACA, and even that total seemed unlikely until Pakistan fluffed chances and Michael Clarke carved out a crucial 75 at No. 6. But Pakistan raised their game when it mattered and scored the 266 needed for victory.
Pakistan's win means that the identity of Australia's opponents in the finals of this VB Series are still not known. It will all boil down to the last qualifying game, between Pakistan and West Indies on Tuesday, also at the WACA.
Pakistan began their chase badly, and were reduced to 3 for 49 after their young batsmen succumbed to quality fast bowling on a Perth pitch which, as usual, possessed true bounce and pace. Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath were quickly into their stride, sprinkling bouncers judiciously into some careful line-and-length bowling.
But Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana kept cool and weathered the storm. They didn't worry about scoring quickly, opting for a safety-first attitude instead. Inzamam's experience and class came through as he defended watchfully, ran sparingly, and made the loose balls count with crunching drives off the back foot. With a cheeky Youhana for company he put on 74 for the fourth wicket, in 16 overs.
Brad Hogg then got Australia back into the game, dismissing Inzamam against the run of play. Inzamam swept at a full one, and missed. The straighter delivery thudded into the pad and a furious Inzamam (29) stomped off, lbw. Two runs later Shoaib Malik attempted to steal a single from Andrew Symonds, but he charged in and kicked the ball onto the stumps with a deft left instep that Thierry Henry would have been proud of, and Malik was run out (5 for 125).
Youhana kept up the good work, nudging, nurdling and poking his way along, just occasionally launching into the big hit, like the time he danced down the pitch and deposited Hogg into the stands at long-off. But he couldn't finish the job either, falling for 72 - 90 balls, seven fours, one six - when he tried to chip Symonds over mid-off and failed (6 for 170).
Then came a manic period of batting that made the Inzamam-Youhana crawl worthwhile. Shahid Afridi out with the mien of a heavyweight boxer about to thump an opponent, and clouted the ball a long way. Symonds watched a perfectly good delivery disappear back over his head for six of the best over long-off; another was creamed over long-on. But just when it seemed that Afridi was playing the crucial knock, his blood boiled over and he top-edged Symonds to Lee at square leg. Afridi had taken 30 off just 13 balls, and brought the required run rate under six an over.
Then Razzaq, who had stepped his game up a gear or two with the ball earlier, played a gem with the bat. Aggressive, fearless, but sensible, he rattled up an unbeaten 63 off 61 balls, and shepherded Pakistan to victory with 16 balls to spare. That, alongside his 4 for 53 earlier in the day, was enough to secure the Man of the Match award.
Razzaq may even have had a five-for had it not been for Pakistan's butter-fingered catching. The disease crept in early on, when Adam Gilchrist was dropped twice before he was finally bowled by Razzaq for 47. And Pakistan certainly were not helped by their decision to leave out Kamran Akmal and play Younis Khan as a makeshift keeper, supposedly in the interests of team balance.
With Matthew Hayden already back in the hutch, his run of poor form prolonged, Pakistan were in with a good chance of restricting Australia. Plenty of batsmen got starts - Ponting made 29, Damien Martyn 24 and Symonds 23 - but wickets fell at regular intervals, and Australia were in a spot of bother at 6 for 156.
But then came an innings of character from the man leading the runscoring charts in this tournament. Michael Clarke came in at No. 6, charged with playing another substantial innings, and he made the difference between a healthy total and a good one. The steady fall of wickets at the other end only made Clarke assume more responsibility. He initially restrained his wide range of strokes, but accelerated once set. He opened his shoulders and unfurled the big shots that had been kept under lock and key, reaching 50 with a vicious pulled six off Razzaq, who ended up with 4 for 53. Clarke was also dropped, in the outfield by Salman Butt, and this time it did cost Pakistan. Clarke rounded off the Australian innings with ruthless efficiency, reaching 75 at a run a ball, with five fours and a six, and lifted Australia to 265. On most days you would back Australia to defend that score. But on the day they were on the receiving end of a Pakistan special.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo.