Pakistan blew away a golden opportunity to topple the world champions and claim four valuable points at The Wanderers on Tuesday. After Wasim Akram had delivered three telling blows, I expected Waqar Younis' men to bowl Australia out cheaply. But despite having the mighty Aussies on the ropes at 86/4, Pakistan failed to restrict them to a score below 250 runs.
It was Andrew Symonds who gatecrashed the Pakistan party. Not too often do you get to see an innings that is of such value as the one played by the big-hitting middle-order bat. It was a breathtaking onslaught on the Pakistani bowling and one of the finest knocks that I have seen in one-day cricket lately. Symonds' audacity and determination were out of the world and he went on to play some very extraordinary strokes.
I think Pakistan lost the game when they allowed Ricky Ponting and Symonds to score runs freely. Instead of bringing on the spinner, Waqar should have given a couple more overs to Shoaib Akthar and purchased a wicket at that crucial stage. But by allowing Australia to score 310, Pakistan effectively gave up the game at that early stage itself.
The assault understandanbly put enormous pressure on Pakistan and skipper Waqar Younis became a victim. One-day cricket is all about keeping your cool, but what can be said if the captain becomes the main culprit? I think umpire David Shepherd did the right thing by taking Waqar off the attack. The game is always better without such unruly behaviour and it is a clear message to all players.
Chasing such a huge total was never going to be easy and soon the Australian bowlers exposed the weakness in Pakistani batting. The men from the subcontinent proved yet again that they are brittle and vulnerable against quick bowling.
In the end, it proved to be a one-sided game with Pakistan contributing more to their own downfall. This game also exposed the fact that both Pakistan and Australia are struggling when it comes to the third and fourth bowler. And that certainly should be good news for the Indian team, who will now be looking to cash in on this area of weakness of both these teams.
I was quite shocked to hear about Shane Warne returning home after testing positive for diuretics during a routine check up conducted in Australia last month. The cricket world looks up to Australia, who they feel have the ultimate professional set-up. In the circumstances, it was quite ridiculous to find that Warne was informed of this on the eve of a crucial World Cup game. Not only is it a massive embarrassment for the great spin bowler but it is also a major blow to the Australian team. I, for one, am quite certain that Warne wouldn't do something like this to jeopardise his career, and that this must be a terrible mistake. I hope this issue gets resolved at the earliest for the sake of Warne and the game itself.