Adelaide- Australia withstand a brilliant spell from Pakistan's Wahab Riaz to steer them into a World Cup semi-final against India

Steve Smith and Shane Watson have withstood a brilliant spell of fast-bowling from Pakistan's Wahab Riaz to steer Australia into a World Cup semi-final against India next week.

Wahab (2-54) removed David Warner (24) and Michael Clarke (2) in the space eight deliveries to leave Australia 3-59 in reply to Pakistan's below-par total of 213.

The left-armer then tested Watson with a sustained spell of fiery short deliveries and should have had his man for just 4 when the Australia allrounder top-edged a pull shot to Rahat Ali at fine leg.

But Rahat spilled the simpilest of chances and Watson took full advantage of the let off, combining with Smith for an 89-run partnership that put victory out of Pakistan's reach.

Smith was near flawless in moving to 65 from 69 balls before he was trapped in front by Ehsan Adil in the 27th over.

Glenn Maxwell then joined Watson to power the home side to victory, smashing an unbeaten 44 from 29 balls as Australia won by six wickets with 97 to spare.

Watson finished not out on 64.

Paceman Josh Hazlewood has enjoyed an exceptional return to national colours, taking 4-35 to lead a clinical bowling display from Australia that restricted Pakistan to 213 in their World Cup quarter-final clash at the Adelaide Oval.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, playing Australia for the first time in an ODI in their backyard, won the toss and elected to bat on a surface that still showed a tinge of green. 

Misbah revealed an unchanged line-up, with Shahid Afridi figuring as the specialist spinner, while Australia captain Michael Clarke announced one change - Hazlewood in place of his Blues teammate Pat Cummins.

But it was another New South Wales quick, left-armer Mitchell Starc, who quickly set the tone for the co-hosts, inducing some plays and misses from Pakistan’s openers before drawing an edge from the in-form Sarfraz Ahmed with the score at 20 in the fifth over.

At a tick over 150kph, the ball flew to the right of Shane Watson at first slip, who did brilliantly to dive and hold the sharpest of chances.

Starc then opted to employ the aggression that has propelled him to new heights in this World Cup, dishing out a send off as Sarfraz exited stage left. 

The Australians have been particularly vocal during this tournament about the importance of high-quality fielding, and Watson’s screamer paved the way for what for the most part was an exhibition – the only notable blips being a difficult dropped chance by Mitchell Johnson from his own bowling in the 31st over, and an uncharacteristic misfield from David Warner towards the end of the innings. 

Hazlewood’s inclusion might have slightly reduced the flat-out speed of the Australian attack but it did nothing to diminish its effectiveness. 

The 24-year-old took the new ball with Starc and was both miserly and dangerous, claiming the wicket of Ahmed Shehzad with the first ball of his third over, just after Starc had removed Sarfraz, as Clarke moved low to his right to claim a healthy edge at second slip.

In the space of four balls, two wickets had fallen and the complexion of the contest had shifted.

And two deliveries later, it almost shifted again.

Incredibly, for the second time at this tournament, the Zings bails lit up but failed to fully dislodge as Misbah shuffled across his crease to expose his leg stump to Hazlewood, and the Australians were momentarily confused about what exactly had transpired.

Replays indicated a stroke of enormous good fortune for the skipper, who avoided a duck by the narrowest of margins in what could well be his final ODI innings.

Misbah gets a lucky break

The skipper then set about attempting to rebuild Pakistan’s innings with his No.3 Haris Sohail (41), who showed he was up for the contest in lacing Hazlewood for a pair of stunning boundaries through the off side in the 12th over.

Together they put on 73 for the third wicket, as Misbah (34 from 59) welcomed Glenn Maxwell’s early introduction by blasting the off-spinner for a couple of sixes over midwicket. 

Yet just as it looked as though a captain’s hand was on the cards, the 40-year-old went for one slog sweep to many, and picked out Aaron Finch on the fence to leave his side hanging precariously at 3-97 in the 24th over. 

It was the breakthrough the Australians were desperate for, and just as many had suspected – and perhaps Pakistan fans had feared – it exposed a vulnerable middle order. 

Inside six overs, the underdogs lost 3-27 to fall into a mid-innings hole from which they never recovered.

Crucial among those to fall quickly was the dangerous Umar Akmal (20 off 25), Maxwell earning a second wicket in much the same manner in which he’d dismissed Misbah.

 

The Australians had actually appealed for his wicket earlier in the innings when he had cut Maxwell away through point, and again the Zings bails lit up. 

Haddin motioned that he may have clipped the bails with his gloves and replays indicated that he had with Akmal well away from the scene of the purported crime.

Like Misbah, Shahid Afridi could well be appearing his final one-day international, but the allrounder’s gung-ho approach with the bat has always been to play every innings as if it was his last, and as such there was no discernible difference today, despite the situation perhaps calling for a more controlled strategy.

Afridi (23 off 15) blasted Mitchell Johnson over point for the 351st six of what’s been a remarkable career, and continued to swing wholeheartedly until it predictably proved his undoing. 

For the third time in this innings the lure of the midwicket boundary proved too great for a Pakistani batsman, and for the third time Finch accepted a fairly simple chance on the fence, giving Hazlewood a second wicket.  

At 6-158 after 34 overs, Pakistan’s status had slipped to critical and it fell upon Sohaib Maqsood and Wahab Riaz to attempt to push their side to somewhere close to 200. 

Maqsood showed some fight in making 29 from 44 deliveries while Wahab engaged in some entertaining back-and-forth with Starc, who offered him some advice about the appearance of the ball after the batsman failed in several attempts to make contact.

But it was Hazlewood who again delivered the telling blow, as Maqsood slashed the quick to Johnson at cover point, who juggled the chance but safely clung on.

Hazlewood’s afternoon got better still when Sohail Khan attempted to blast him into the adjacent Torrens River, only for Haddin to safely get under the exceptionally high ball. 

In between Hazlewood’s third and fourth scalps, his opening partner Starc returned to claim a second – Wahab (16 off 22) backing away and edging a short-of-a-length length ball through to Haddin, which meant left-armer had again taken sole top spot among the tournament’s wicket-takers.

A final-wicket stand of 18 pushed the score beyond the milestone of 200 but when Starc did well to hold a tough chance to remove Ehsan Adil and give James Faulkner his first wicket, the final figure of 213 appeared drastically under par.

Australia: Aaron Finch, David Warner, Steve Smith, Michael Clarke (c), Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson, James Faulkner, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.

Pakistan: Ahmed Shehzad, Sarfraz Ahmed, Haris Sohail, Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Shahid Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali, Ehsan Adil

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.

Courtesy: Cricket.com