Clinical Pakistan march into semis
Pakistan's bowlers have masked their poor batting in the tournament so far - they have not scored 200 yet - and the pressure on their batsmen, playing on the first time on a slowish Kinrara pitch, was eased tremendously by having to chase a paltry target. Their top-order struggled once again - they were 32 for 3 - but all they needed was one substantial partnership, which Ahmed Shezad and Ali Asad, who was unbeaten on 63, provided by adding 95 for the fourth wicket.
The groundwork for a crushing victory was laid by right-arm fast-bowlers Adil Raza and Azhar Attari after Imad Wasim put Australia in on an overcast day in Kuala Lumpur. Raza's opening spell yielded 3 for 18 while Attari displayed superb stamina by bowling ten overs on the trot for 2 for 23. Wasim capitalized on the start provided by his quick bowlers and took 2 for 21 with his left-arm spin.
Australia went into the match with a strengthened batting line up after a poor performance against Sri Lanka. They brought in Marcus Stoinis, who opened instead of Kirk Pascoe, and Kumar Sarna while Phil Hughes kept wicket instead of the specialist in the earlier games, Dom O'Brien. The ploy did not work as none of the top order batsmen got settled. The highest partnership was 31 as wickets fell at quick intervals. Pakistan even struck twice in the same over on two occasions as they completely dominated the Australians.
The collapse began in the first over of the match as Raza seamed his third ball away from left-hand batsman Philip Hughes, who pushed at it and feathered a nick to wicketkeeper Asad. Two balls later Raza skidded one into Stoinis' pads and Australia were 1 for 2.
Raza struck for a third time when he induced an edge from Sarna's off-drive to Asad and Australia were 30 for 3. Raza's stock delivery was the one that seamed away from the left-hand batsman and he was backed up superbly by his new-ball partner Mohammad Rameez. Though Rameez did not pick up a wicket, he bowled a tight length and had the batsman undecided whether to play at it or not.
Boundaries weren't forthcoming: the first came via an outside edge from Michael Hill through the vacant second slip region in the seventh over. The run-rate was slower than England's struggle against India on Sunday but while England did not lose early wickets, Australia's fell in a heap.
The first bowling change that Wasim made produced immediate results. Attari pitched around off stump and seamed the ball away from Hill, who drove and edged to the wicketkeeper. At 31 for 4, Australia needed a partnership and Steve Smith and Michael Cranmer tried to consolidate. However, Attari's second strike - Cranmer was unlucky to be adjudged caught behind - broke a partnership of 31. They had just taken half a step forward but were pushed several steps behind.
Steven Smith had slowly accumulated 22 runs but he was dismissed while trying to flick Wasim's left-arm spin across the line. Wasim struck again in the same over, bowling James Faulkner around his legs while he attempted the sweep.
Australia were floundering at 71 for 7 but Wasim chose not to bring back his fast bowlers and persisted with spin. Ahmed Shezad bowled his legbreaks for less than four runs per over while Umar Akmal, the younger brother of Pakistan wicketkeeper Kamran, took 1 for 19 off seven overs of restrictive offspin. They weren't as incisive as the earlier bowlers and the Australian lower-order batsmen hung around - No 8 James Pattinson top-scored with 33 - to take the total past a 100.
Australia needed to run through the top order to have any chance of fighting back but Pakistan's openers approached the run-chase aggressively. Akmal, who tried to play a shot a ball, struck a flurry of boundaries through cover before he miscued a pull to square leg.
Josh Hazlewood, a tall fast bowler who is the youngest member in the Australian squad, infused some excitement by striking twice in his first over to nip out Umar Amin and Umair Mir. Pakistan were 32 for 3 but Asad and the opener Shezad shut Australia out of the contest with a sensible partnership for the fourth wicket. They complemented each other well: Shezad didn't have much of the strike but he played the anchor's role with a patient 36 while Asad ensured that pressure did not build by finding the boundaries with shots all round the wicket and maintained a healthy run-rate. They reached the target with 22.1 overs to spare.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo