Pakistan gained a morale-boosting victory over Australia in the Day/Night International at Trent Bridge ahead of Saturday's NatWest Series Final.
Having won the toss and elected to bat first Pakistan made 290-9 from their 50 overs and despite half-centuries from Adam Gilchrist and Steve Waugh Australia were restricted to 254 all out, losing by 36 runs. Once again Waqar Younis was the destroyer-in-chief, picking up 6-59.
In pursuit of a huge victory target of 291 Australia needed to build a solid platform but they were rocked with the early departures of both Mark Waugh and Matthew Hayden. Waqar Younis, bowling the second over, began with a wide but then bowled a perfect away swinger which nicked the outside edge of Waugh's bat and was neatly taken by the diving Latif.
Left-hander Hayden fell in the same over, although there was some confusion over his dismissal. Replays seemed to indicate that the ball struck only the pad on it's way through to the 'keeper. Although the lbw shout looked very close the official scorers maintained that the batsman was caught behind.
Adam Gilchrist provided a dynamic response, smashing four boundaries in Waqar's second over but the Pakistan captain continued his purple streak at the start of his third. Michael Bevan being the next to go, bowled with a ball that nipped back into him and pole-axed his middle stump.
An explosive seventh over produced 19 runs and Gilchrist's assault continued in the next over as successive pulled boundaries rocketed him to a very special 50 (44 mins 29 balls 11x4).
At 76-3 after nine overs Saqlain's off-spin was introduced; Waqar's first spell, ending with figures of 3-43 from four overs! The first six of the innings (Saqlain/Gilchrist) came in the 12th over and brought the Australian 100 up from just 78 balls.
With the score on 111 Saqlain grabbed the prize wicket of the opener as Gilchrist misread the flight and was bowled for 70 (70 mins 44 balls 1x6 12x4). In the same over Damien Martyn edged the wrong'un to Azhar Mahmood at slip and despite the healthy run-rate Australian victory chances appeared remote.
Andrew Symonds joined Steve Waugh and provided reassuring support as his skipper advanced to yet another accomplished 50 (89 mins 63 balls 8x4). After 25 overs the pair had lifted the total to 165-5, still on target, and the partnership was soon extended past the 70 mark.
With the floodlighting in full force 102 were needed from the final 19 overs when Waqar returned to the attack. The golden arm of the Pakistani captain struck immediately as his opposite number skied him to Saqlain at mid off. Steve Waugh had made 56 from 89 balls.
Three balls later Symonds, who'd shared a stand of 77 with his captain, then tried to lift Waqar over deep midwicket but watched as substitute fielder Imran Nazir juggled four times with the ball before holding onto the catch. Waqar's remarkable figures after five overs now read 5-48.
The Australian tail had been left with too much to do by their top order and although Brett Lee hit Waqar for a huge 6 into the Radcliffe Road Stand he lost his off stump the very next ball to give the paceman his sixth wicket.
Shane Warne made 14 before hitting Azhar Mahmood to Wasim Akram at cover and despite some stoic hitting from Jason Gillespie and Damien Fleming, Australia had lost their chance of an unlikely win before Gillespie was bowled by Razzaq.
Saleem Elahi had earlier top-scored for Pakistan with 79, made out of a total of 290-9. Worryingly though the innings had been disrupted due to crowd disturbances, which forced the players from the field for 19 minutes. The unsightly presence of a boundary heavily ringed with police and stewards allowed the game to finish without a premature pitch invasion, although firecrackers in stands have no place at English cricket grounds.
Afterwards Waqar Younis looked forward to the final on Saturday. "One more game to go and hopefully we can do well in that," he said. "Winning before the final is always a good thing.
"It was a great game, we played really well. Especially Saleem Elahi with the bat. It was a very good pitch, winning the toss was a good thing."
Of his own, match-winning bowling he commented: "It's swinging for me and I hope it will swing for me in the final."
Steve Waugh was unhappy with the Australian performance, however. "We weren't too flash in the field," he said. "We missed some early opportunities. We got what we deserved tonight and have got some work to do before the final. We were outplayed by Pakistan tonight."
But he had warm words for Gilchrist, commenting: "Adam Gilchrist did well early on. But some careless shots and the game was all over."
Waugh had harsh words for the spectators that caused him to leave his team off the field during the Pakistan innings, and invaded the pitch at the end of the match.
"The stewards tried their best to contain things but you can't control idiots, can you?" he commented.
"You saw the way they behaved after the game and people shouldn't be allowed to spend £15 to come to a cricket match and think they can do what they want."
But he admitted that the situation at Trent Bridge had been better than at other grounds.
"Today there was an improvement in the way things were dealt with but it was still not an ideal situation. They put up fences but I don't think I would have been too keen if I had been a steward stood behind them."