Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Australia sneak home

Australia 467 (Ponting 141) and 127 (Shoaib Akhtar 5-21) beat Pakistan 279 (Warne 7-94) and 274 (Taufeeq Umar 88, Younis Khan 51, S Warne 4-94) by 41 runs

This seesaw battle on the neutral turf of the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo ultimately went Australia's way, but it had been a victory for Test cricket. Inspiration, vulnerability, turnaround - it was all here for five days.

Ultimately, Pakistan proved to be too volatile for their own good: the day began with them needing 137 runs with seven wickets in hand; they ended 41 runs short, and the last six wickets had fallen for 44 runs. Shane Warne was Man of the Match for his 11 wickets on a surface that suited just about everybody.

Surprisingly, it was Australia who gifted the first hour of the morning to Pakistan by dropping two simple catches. But they composed themselves and tightened the noose irrevocably in the next hour.

Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath, after spending three hours - two yesterday and one today - wondering if there was any justice in the world, finally got their reward with the second new ball when the Pakistani lower order went into suicide mode. Four wickets fell in the space of 22 balls, two each to McGrath and Gillespie, as Pakistan batted like they had to belt ten runs an over. But while the fast men delivered the knockout blows, the hero of the morning for Australia was Warne, who accounted for Misbah-ul-Haq and, crucially, Younis Khan.

Yet, the script had looked like going horribly awry for Australia in the first hour when Mark Waugh, considered the safest slip catcher of his era, spilled two catches, to add to yesterday's one, and Younis survived four close calls, three of them against Warne. First, umpire Steve Bucknor ruled a close leg-before decision in his favour; Younis then survived a miscued lofted drive that fell short of Brett Lee at long-off and a hairline stumping chance before Mark Waugh made a mess of an edge off McGrath at second slip.

But Warne was not to be denied, and he got Younis lbw after Steve Waugh had delayed taking the second new ball. Younis missed the ball attempting a ferocious pull at a Warne flipper that pitched marginally outside off and dipped in slightly. The replays showed that the impact of ball on pad was a fraction outside the line of off stump, but Bucknor, who didn't have the benefit of the third eye, ruled in Warne's favour.

Steve Waugh then gambled on the new ball and it paid immediate dividends when Rashid Latif wafted at a length ball from Gillespie to Adam Gilchrist behind the wicket. Saqlain Mushtaq was dismissed playing a stroke befitting the last ball of a one-day match, though it was only the fourth ball he had faced in the innings and two sessions of play were remaining. Waqar Younis added to the pre-lunch madness, wildly slashing Gillespie to Gilchrist, who took his second catch of the morning.

Faisal Iqbal and Mohammad Sami kept hopes alive as they hung about unconvincingly for half an hour after lunch. But the wicket arrived, as it was sure to. Faisal scooped a slower, wider one from McGrath to Ricky Ponting at point, and the game was up.

The series will now move to Sharjah, Pakistan's home away from home. If this is anything to go by, it could be special.