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Symonds' career-best sinks Pakistan

The Australia allrounder rescued his side from 86 for 4 and took them to a commanding win

Agha Akbar
After a spirited start, Pakistan completely lost it in this crunch game. With a mostly clinically efficient display, the Aussies walked away with an 82-run victory to get their 2003 World Cup campaign off to a perfect start.
In the process they amply showed any doubters how they could conquer adversity, and also why there is this huge chasm between them and the rest. Andrew Symonds held the Aussie middle and late order together (considered to be the weaker link) with a career-best unconquered 143 that took the Aussies soaring to 310 - the best total on the Wanderers in a one-day international, and the highest by the Aussies in a World Cup game.
And then their bowlers stuck to the task of defending the huge total without a hint of spendthriftiness, not even by the lesser bowlers like Ian Harvey and Brad Hogg. There were no freebies, no short stuff outside the off-stump that the batsmen could cut or cream through the covers, or pull with impunity.
Pakistan neither had the inventiveness nor the spunk to change the script. Wickets kept falling regularly, and by the 20th over when Inzamam tamely edged Glenn McGrath into a most delighted Adam Gilchrist's gloves, it was all over bar the shouting.
After the Symonds innings literally took the match away from Pakistan or more aptly, knocked the stuffing out, the latter needed to play out of their skins to make their chase a success. But it went horribly wrong with four top-order wickets gone - Shahid Afridi, Taufeeq Umar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saleem Elahi, in that order - without contributing much to Pakistan's cause. Yousuf Youhana, Younis Khan and Abdul Razzaq all tried to stop a complete rout, but it proved to be beyond them.
There wasn't much to write home about until later - much later. A partnership of 54 in 5.4 overs for the eighth wicket between Rashid Latif (33, 23 balls, 1 four, 3 sixes) and Wasim Akram (33, 31 balls, 4 fours, 1 six) reduced the margin of defeat. But that was all it could do.
Any glimmer of hope was shattered by the manner that Rashid (clean bowled, making room for an expansive drive when 14 runs had already been plundered off the last Hogg over) and Akram (going for a big drive off a Harvey full toss, holing out to Ponting at mid-off) got out, characterized Pakistan's innings: throwing away wickets when it counted most.
After this big setback, Pakistan would need to pull up its socks to survive and progress beyond the pool.
Pakistan didn't really make itself proud with a ragged display while fielding. Their bowling was mostly too wayward, and they conceded 31 extras, 21 of them either wides or no-balls. This resulted in a slow over-rate as well, and they were docked an over for overstepping the scheduled time for the innings.
The Aussies came into the match stung by the Shane Warne ouster from the match or possibly the event before a single ball was bowled. Akram and Akhtar greeted them with unalloyed aggression on a pitch which showed some lateral movement, perhaps the reason why skipper Waqar opted to bowl first after winning the toss.
Akram got the breakthrough when Gilchrist tried to plonk him towards the mid-wicket fence, only top-edging to Waqar in the third over. Hayden (27, 41 balls, 3 4s) was cut into half by a couple of Akhtar thunderbolts, but was trying to break the shackles and be his free-scoring self when he played Akram onto his stumps. Damien Martyn was bowled first ball by an Akram beauty which cut in off the length and crashed into the stumps, off the inside edge. Jimmy Maher thwarted the hat-trick but became Waqar's first victim when he played one away from the body, Latif pouching the edge to make Australia 86 for four. Pakistan could not have hoped for a better start.
But from here on it was all Australia. Having already hit Waqar and a hopelessly out of form Razzaq for three boundaries apiece, Ponting now looked dangerous and after early jitters Symonds too was playing fluently. The two added 60 for the fifth wicket when Ponting (53, 67 balls, 7 fours) was finally out trying to thump a widish Akhtar delivery, guiding it into Taufeeq's hands at second slip.
At 5 for 146, Pakistan must have hoped of a reprieve. They never got one.
Instead, it was Symonds who called the shots. Giving a display of immaculately clean strokeplay, he raced to his 100 off just 92 deliveries with 15 fours, the second 50 consuming just 33 deliveries. By the close he had got to 143 off just 125 deliveries, hitting 18 fours in all, and two sixes, one of them majestically straight over Wasim Akram's head.
The entire Pakistan attack was left cut to shreds by the weight of Symonds' blade, and none looked respectable. It was an onslaught not seen for a while and the brunt was borne by Afridi, Razzaq and Younis Khan who each got some special treatment. With frustration by now running deep, Waqar bowled two beamers and was ordered out of the attack by umpire David Shepherd, with Afridi having to complete the penultimate over.
Symonds' form and Waqar's frustration may well have set the mood for the Pakistani side already well known for their inconsistent morale when it came to their turn to bat.