Australia played to win

Written by: Syed Saba Karim
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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The Australian brigade seemed buoyant today after their triumph against Pakistan at Melbourne last Sunday. It sure must have been a great feeling for the Aussies to have avenged their loss against Pakistan in the first game at Brisbane. They were definitely rearing to go and had their strategies wellworked out-- all set towards jubilation at the end of the day! Victory smiled on them yet again today due to their consolidated efforts.

This fourth game for Pakistan was crucial to stay in reckoning-- Wasim Akram and his men could well discern this. Pakistan's main affliction which is somewhat similar to India's woes lies in the openers not clicking. Wasim Akram surely must have come into the game praying and hoping for a rejuvenated effort from the likes of Ijaz, Inzamam and for Saeed Anwar to carry on after getting a responsible start.

It was not to be. With Pakistan having lost one over, only 49 overs were available and to combat the mammoth total of 286 was not an easy task. It meant that the openers had to bat sensibly to provide a good foundation for the middle order batsmen who have also not been consistent in the past few games.

Saeed Anwar has had a trying time as he has had change of partners a little too often. Today, Ijaz was sent in with him. The very first ball from McGrath came on to Saeed giving him a nasty blow. He recovered very soon though, and took full advantage of the fieldsmen being up. Both the openers seemed full of confidence as they hit out lustrous shots and sent McGrath for 10 and 9 in the first and second overs respectively. Having got 23 from 11 balls Ijaz exited playing a rather irresponsible shot. It was unfortunate for Pakistan that just as a partnership seemed to be growing both the openers exited after some explosive shots.

Abdur Razzaq's valiant effort went in vain as he hastened his own exit. He must have been very annoyed with himself as he had settled down very well and had he taken responsibility and stood on one end the result of the game could have been different. His five fours in a row off the bowling of McGrath sent the Pakistani fans into great celebration. Inzamam ambled away with another lbw as Shane Lee bowled a slower off cutter.

There was some hope with Yousuf Youhana who came to the crease with an aggregate of 45.28. He, like his fellow team mates is used to playing leg-spinners but he showed no adjustment to the turn. He showed little willingness to go down the pitch. If the batsman is not prepared to leave the crease when the ball is turning, he will fail to force the bowler to change his pace. This is what the Pakistani batsmen did against the very accurate bowling of Stuart MacGill, the right arm leg spinner.

Moin Khan who is really low on confidence tried to work the ball to the outside and got the leading edge. What a way to get out for an intelligent cricketer like him. Pakistan must be praying for Moin to recover his form specially after he missed stumping Bevan today.

Azhar Mehmood could not get enough bat--trying to hit the ball on the rise which was not a judicious thing to do specially at that stage when the Pakistan innings was in the doldrums. All top order Pakistani batsmen went well into their double figures but did not look ahead intelligently. Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar did well to maintain a good run rate keeping the the qualifying stages of the Series in their mind.

Stuart MacGill had four significant wickets and was the pick of todays' game. His magnificient performance in turning the ball was consequential. Turning the ball a long way, he bowled nothing short mixing in half volleys. The void due to the injury of Shane Warne was very well filled up with MacGill's exemplary performance.

Earlier on as Steve Waugh had elected to bat we saw a comeback of sorts of Mark Waugh which must have boosted his confidence. There were signs of the old Mark Waugh though he did seem abrasive at times in his knock. Ricky Ponting's miseries after his 100 continues as he earned his third successive duck. Damien Martyn and Andrew Symonds were the great strikers today. Martyn has proved his powerful shots get to the boundaries with ease and he also holds the distinction of getting some brillant slip catches. A couple of cover drives, specially the one coming off the bowling of Wasim Akram was really elegant. Runs kept coming in as Martyn reached his half century in real style. Symonds fell a few runs short of his half century but did very well.

Wasim Akram completed his 400 wickets in one day internationals. What a great player with an attitude towards Winning. His boys really let him down today even in the bowling department as both Saqlain and Razzaq got clobbered. Akram had bowled brilliantly to have Australia pinned down at 23 for 2 wickets. None of the other bowlers could give him the required brakes and the Captain surely will have lots to tell his boys.

The main Australian bowler who has been shaking the opposition till the last game got really thrashed today by the Pakistani top order batsmen. Glenn McGrath conceded 61 runs in his first five overs. But the beauty of the talented Australian side is that in case a particular player who has been delivering the goods fails, the side is not ruffled. One or two of the players will perform and give the Captain and the country ample reason to be proud of.

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