Glenn McGrath dug a knife deep into Pakistan's batting and then twisted it by dismissing Inzamam
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Glenn McGrath ruthlessly dismantled Pakistan's flimsy top order to set up Australia's VB Series victory before sealing it with the late dismissal of the dangerous Abdul Razzaq at the SCG. McGrath forced his opponents' chase to follow a similar path to the first match at Melbourne with a blistering opening spell, and finished with five wickets as Pakistan fell 31 runs short of Australia's total of 9 for 239.
Australia's fine bowling, which followed another inconsistent batting performance, wrapped up the series on a tricky two-paced pitch. Pakistan were 4 for 27 at Melbourne, where they lost by 18 runs, and suffered similar damage as McGrath claimed three wickets from his first six overs. As Pakistan resisted with a potentially dangerous ninth-wicket stand of 48 between Razzaq and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, McGrath returned to add the final two wickets for figures of 5 for 27 and the Man-of-the-Match award.
Yousuf Youhana restored Pakistan's chances with a run-a-ball half-century, and when Razzaq and Shahid Afridi started racing, Australia were nervous. Afridi had sprinted to 30 off 20 balls in the 35th over, in which he belted Brad Hogg for two sixes, when he risked a second on Brett Lee's accurate throw from third man. Gilchrist's quick take was ruled successful by the third umpire (7 for 133). It was an important moment in a match where only Gilchrist and Youhana managed to score comfortably.
"We haven't been at our best in the two finals but we've bowled really well," Ricky Ponting said before lifting the trophy. "Pakistan pushed us all the way in the two games but we were lucky to keep our noses in front." Ponting also signalled out McGrath for special praise.
More expensive than his opening partner Lee in their first spells, McGrath stayed two overs longer and caused the most damage. The dismissal of Inzamam-ul-Haq was by far the most important as the captain has led the middle-order resistance. Inzamam walked out to another rebuilding exercise after his top three failed again, but for the first time in the series he wasn't able to help as McGrath's off-cutter caught him in front third ball (4 for 38).
Kamram Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez departed to similar shots from eerily similar McGrath deliveries. Television graphics showed the balls hitting the pitch millimetres apart on a length too short to drive, but Akmal edged his to Gilchrist and Hafeez struck to Michael Clarke at a specially ordered short point (3 for 38). As has been his custom over the past month, Lee, the Player of the Series, made an early incision when Taufeeq Umar, playing his first game of the tournament after replacing Salman Butt, top-edged a pull to McGrath on the fine-leg fence (1 for 13).
Unfortunately for Pakistan it was mostly their bowlers who were willing to fight for the trophy with bat and ball, and their first-innings performance rattled Australia. After Gilchrist made sure Australia blasted off as he rocketed to 40 off 30 balls with six fours and a six, the visitors fired an impressive comeback with a steady flow of wickets.
Boasting all-round bowling contributors, Pakistan withstood the initial blast - 50 runs in the first 6.4 overs - and then, through Rao Iftikhar and Razzaq, applied the brakes. But it was the spinners Afridi and Hafeez who took the most advantage of the pitch, which became harder to score on as the ball softened, with 20 brilliant overs. Afridi collected Ricky Ponting and Darren Lehmann and conceded 38 runs and Hafeez gave away 34 as the middle order folded. Following a summer of dominance the home side were in disarray and even had a Pakistan-style run out when Katich and Damien Martyn both landed at the bowler's end (5 for 166). Andrew Symonds, missing after injuring his Achilles tendon at Melbourne, was a big loss from the line-up and his absence left Martyn to calm a falling run-rate with a hard-earned 43.
Not only did Pakistan restrict their opponents in the middle stages, they also reduced the danger of the late-innings rush and Naved narrowly missed a hat-trick when McGrath squirted him to fine-leg.
Razzaq, who returned to uproot Martyn's off stump, started Pakistan's first recovery with two maidens and the crucial wicket of Gilchrist, who popped a drive to Shoaib Malik at cover (1 for 55). However, Rudi Koertzen ordered Razzaq out of the attack after his second high full toss in the 49th over. Razzaq was also lost towards the end of the second innings during a match - and a tournament - where Pakistan required much more from their top order.
Peter English is Australasian editor of Cricinfo.