Down and almost out Australia run into form
Australia 229 for 6 (Nitschke 56*, Ebsary 51, Mir 2-35) beat Pakistan 122 (Iqbal 36, Farrell 2-23, Perry 2-16, Poulton 2-9) by 107 runs
Australia mixed and matched their side and rested their captain but kept their mathematical hopes alive by beating eighth-seed Pakistan comfortably by 107 runs in Bankstown on Monday. They rediscovered some batting and bowling form to wither Pakistan, but the underdogs' approach was more encouraging than the bare numbers suggest.
Where Australia were largely muted - despite their most complete game in reaching 229 for 6 on a slow outfield and then managing to take a rare early wicket before inducing a total collapse - Pakistan, and their supporters, were so joyous you could have been forgiven for thinking they were the victors.
Their brave young side played with spirit and their stylishly attacking top-order batsmen caught many an eye. But the home team stuck to their task and easily dismissed them for 122 as their superior experience told.
Alex Blackwell, deputising for Karen Rolton (while Lisa Sthalekar and Emma Sampson were rested), dropped herself to No 4 after winning the toss, allowing Leah Poulton to open again with Shelley Nitschke. The move paid off as the pair put on 100 for the first wicket, Nitschke top-scoring with 56, while Poulton reached 47. It was a slow, measured start, with the team fifty only coming up in the 16th over.
The in-form Jodie Fields then struck strongly on the leg-side for her 36, and together with half-centurion Lauren Ebsary, put on 69 for the fourth wicket. Pakistan's bowlers, however, did not wilt in the face of the onslaught and took some late wickets for their troubles.
Australia's total may have been lower, however, had Pakistan been more disciplined in the field. The occasional ball got through where it shouldn't have, while Sana Mir twice dropped return catches from the other half-centurion Ebsary, and there was a missed stumping chance early on off Poulton.
Nevertheless, Sana was her side's best bowler, with 2 for 35 from 10, with both openers playing on. Almas Akram, another bowling talent, could have been allowed her full allocation, but it was not to be.
Pakistan's reply began brightly, with some impressive clean strikes from Nain Abidi, Bismah Maroof and Asmavia Iqbal. Nain fell early, trying to pull a straight one from Rene Farrell. Asmavia, who top-scored for her side with 36, delighted with a series of straight drives and Bismah joined in with her well-struck 24.
Inexperience told in the end as they fell away against Australia's pace and tidy spin. Farrell ended with two wickets, while there were a brace each for Ellyse Perry and Poulton, who recorded a career-best 2 for 9 off three overs.
But even when Pakistan were seven down, there was some enjoyable stroke play from their batsmen as they went past 100 against a major side for the first time in the tournament. Even though clearly behind, every run was saluted, cheered and whistled as if they could win. This is the emerging Pakistan, uplifting a country at the time when they most need it. They may not be contenders for the final but they have surpassed plenty of expectations already in this tournament and have much to still learn.
Meanwhile Australia run into the tournament's juggernaut England in their next game on Thursday. Blackwell was upbeat about their chances: "We've had a tough run but we're pleased with the win today," she said. "We're a team that's more than capable of beating England and we're more than confident that we can do that."
Australia are currently third in the table with four points but they have played four matches and have only one game to play. India and New Zealand also have four points each, while England has six. All three teams have two more Super Six matches in hand.
Jenny Roesler is a former assistant editor at Cricinfo