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Battle-hardened Aussies prey on Pakistani inexperience

Pakistan's youthful inexperience was exposed by Steve Waugh's Australians on the final day of this opening Test match, but Waqar Younis's team gained respect for a performance that dented the world champions aura of invincibility.

Australia eventually won by 41 runs, a slender margin of victory that would have appeared inconceivable after their dominance during the first two days. However, a wonderful burst from Shoaib Akhtar, described afterwards by Steve Waugh as "one of the great spells of fast bowling," and a dogged 88 from opener Taufeeq Umar yesterday had threatened a famous Pakistani victory.

But Pakistan, needing just 137 with seven wickets remaining when the fifth day started, finally lost their nerve when Waugh gambled on the second new ball shortly before the luncheon interval. On 248 for five at the time, requiring just 68 more, they lost four wickets in the space of 23 balls.

Glenn McGrath, Australia's best fast bowler, who finished with three for 38 from 24.2 overs of plugging accuracy, wrapped up the game soon after the break as Faisal Iqbal (39), the last recognised specialist batsman, aimed an impetuous shot through the off-side to be caught in the covers.

Whilst McGrath and Jason Gillespie - who claimed two wickets with the new ball before limping off the field with a calf injury, and possibly out of the series - had rushed the match towards its eventual conclusion, it was Shane Warne, the eventual man of the match, who had played the greatest hand.

Clearly benefiting from a new slimline physique, he had passed ten wickets in the game for the sixth time in his career - his largest haul since taking 11 wickets against England at the Oval over year ago - when Misbah-ul-Haq (10) had been caught in the covers by Steve Waugh off a leading edge.

He then grabbed perhaps the crucial wicket, although somewhat fortuitously as the ball struck Younis Khan marginally outside the line of off-stump, with the kind of well-oiled flipper that confounded so many batsmen in his pomp but has struggled to control since his shoulder operation.

Younis, the most senior of the frontline batsman, had enjoyed a charmed morning when he was dropped on 33 as Mark Waugh's butter-fingered nightmare continued with another two spilled slip chances today, Faisal Iqbal being the other beneficiary when he had scored just 13.

Younis's presence at the crease was a reassuring sight for his side and his dismissal proved disastrous for their cause, opening up the lower order to the lethal final Australian attack with the new ball.

Although Waqar claimed afterwards he was pleased with his side's overall performance, praising the youngsters for "some excellent cricket," he must have been bitterly disappointed with the final collapse, especially the suicidal dismissal of the experienced Saqlain Mushtaq (1).

Rashid Latif had just edged Gillespie's first ball back to the wicket and Pakistan needed to survive the handful of minutes before lunch without further losses. Afterwards the tailenders could have supported Faisal, who was batting well at that stage.

But Saqlain charged down the wicket to McGrath, completely miscuing an ugly smear and was caught by Steve Waugh at short cover. Waqar (1) then feathered a catch into the gloves of Adam Gilchrist second ball and the frenetic Shoaib shouldered arms to the penultimate ball of the session.

Steve Waugh claimed afterwards that Pakistan should be "proud of the manner in which they fought themselves back into the game" but said he felt comfortable going into the final day.

"We were very confident going into the last day," said Waugh. "Pakistan probably woke up for the first time believing that they could win the game and that put them under pressure. We could feel that they were more pensive today."

He defended his brother's performance in the field, which at one time looked like it would cost Australia the game: "That just happens sometimes. He's caught well for 125 Test matches and today he had an off day. I am not overly concerned, we will sort it out by the next Test."

Waqar hoped that his young side learned from the experience: "It was touch and go today, we just needed one partnership. It was disappointing but we played some excellent cricket during the course of the match and although we have lost the youngsters will have learned a lot."