Pak got no chance to pressure Aussies

Written by: Ian Healy
Published: Thursday, February 3, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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Wasim Akram has shot his team in the foot. In a carefree war of words this week, his suggestion that Australia could fold under pressure, heaped far too much back on Pakistan, for the eagerly awaited first final of the Carlton and United series in Melbourne.

His troops were terrible and probably too hyped up to be able to play naturally. Akram is able to cope with the best of them, but he forgot how inexperienced and out-of-form some of his soldiers are.

Disaster, in a cricket sense, could not have appeared any earlier for Pakistan on Wednesday, after they demonstrated great joy at winning the toss. Akram hardly had time to get back from the toss before he found himself padding up to bat, as his top order crumbled to be 6 for 59 from 28 overs.

The Australian player of the year Glen McGrath was the wrecker and he had three batsmen out for nothing immediately. Anwar played most of the first over, which did not do anything excessive until Afridi got something special first up, on the fifth ball. McGrath got one to bounce and snick the gloves of a shattered opener who would have been ready to give his all.

Afridi very quickly had some buddies with him in the change room unpadding as they rushed to 4 for 12. McGrath was relentless. Rib height, on and outside off stump is tough to score from, and Ijaz attempted to force the ball through the covers from too close to his body. Warne at first slip completed the dismissal and another, when Anwar nicked a full one from Lee.

Inzaman continued his LBW habit, and McGrath had 3/2!!

Steve Waugh then tried most of his bowling options, maybe saying to Akram, "We'll just use this final as a training run". Warne bowled beautifully with in-drift and turn, to cause his usual share of trouble. Symonds, Shane Lee, Bevan purchased a wicket each, and even Mark Waugh had an over.

All were good and that has been the story for the whole series, allowing the captain to relax.

McGrath wasn't alone in the pace department either, and Brett Lee impressed, after having to take the new ball due to Fleming being omitted. His control kept every batsman honest, and pace was definitely on the menu.

Middle-order resistance got some respectability to the score, which would have been desperately lacking without Moin Khan. His 47 runs from only 48 balls showed that conditions were good for batting and the rest of his team had under-achieved again.

Good batting conditions meant nothing to Gilchrist and Waugh as they copped a fierce barrage from Akhtar who bowled the second fastest missile of the summer. His 154.7 km/hr had everyone scurrying.

Finally, he drew a hook shot out of Gilchrist, who gloved it straight up in the air. Waugh and Ponting struggled but did settle, before pace ripped into Waugh's pads in front of the stumps.

Mr Clinical, alias Michael Bevan, entered and performed another of his regulation operations, ensuring the Australians reached the desired total of 155. He did it tough for sometime, managing just 30 runs from his first 70 balls.

As has been so often the case, he paced his innings thoughtfully and took few risks.

We all know his ability to wear down a bowling attack with precise placement of shots and sneaky quick running between wickets. On Wednesday he battled until late and ended up out with just nine to win for 54 (104).

One great sign for Australia was that even while the batsmen struggled, they compiled runs, rather than losing wickets. Just another facet of play, that their confidence seems to be higher than their opponents.

Ponting never got on top of anyone but pinched a 50 to further fight back from a run of ducks.

The much-referred-to pressure leading into this match is now on one team only. Pakistan folded haplessly in the World Cup final last year and again on Wednesday, so maybe they should concentrate on what's important to their chances, rather than worry about how the Aussies might react to stiff opposition.

They can take it from me, Australia will be fine.

Procam International

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