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Pakistan Snaps Australia’s 34-Match Unbeaten Run

By Shihar Aneez for The Los Angeles Times

Australia’s 34-match unbeaten run in the Cricket World Cup dating back to 1999 was finally broken by Pakistan on Saturday when Ricky Ponting’s team were beaten by four wickets.

Australia, who have won the last three World Cups during the run and were unbeaten in five matches in Group A in this tournament, were skittled out for 176.

Pace bowler Brett Lee raised hopes of an Australian fightback when he got rid of opener Mohammad Hafeez in the third over but his haul of four for 28 could not prevent Pakistan from cruising to victory with 54 balls to spare.

“We certainly had a tough game today. We didn’t do ourselves any favours. I thought our batting effort was particularly ordinary,” said Ponting, who suffered his first World Cup defeat as captain.

“We stuck at it really well with the ball. I thought the guys bowled really well and gave ourselves a bit of a sniff when we got them six down but not enough runs on the board.”

Saturday’s result threw the tournament wide open as there is no undefeated team left in the competition heading into next week’s knockout stages.

Australia had already qualified for the quarter-finals but will now finish third in the group rather than top, a place now occupied by Pakistan.

“It’s a different sort of enjoyment playing against Australia. They may be World Champions but there was no pressure on us so we pulled it off today,” Umar Akmal said after finishing unbeaten on 44.

Ponting’s men struggled for momentum through out their innings after opting to bat first.

Pakistan’s pace and spin attack, backed up by sharp fielding, never allowed the Australian batting to settle down.

A 63-run second wicket stand between Brad Haddin (42) and Ponting (19), who failed once again with the bat, was the only notable partnership in the Australian innings.

Michael Clarke (34) and Steve Smith (25) were the only other batsmen to make any worthwhile contributions on a difficult surface that offered spin and some uneven bounce which the Australian batsmen failed to cope with.

Paceman Umar Gul (3-30) bowled superbly with both the new and the old ball for the 1992 champions, who were the last team to defeat Australia in a World Cup match in 1999.

Gul made the first breakthrough by bowling Shane Watson for nine and returned to clean up the tail by taking the wickets of Jason Krezja and Lee.

Pakistan plan to spread the grief

As reported by Agence France-Presse

Pakistan are still reeling from the cricket corruption scandal that has dogged the side since last summer, but Shoaib Akhtar has warned that he and his teammates plan to take out their frustrations over the affair on their World Cup opponents.

Salman Butt, Pakistan’s then Test captain, and the bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer were banned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) last month, after being found guilty of spot-fixing, which depleted Pakistan’s bowling options just two weeks before the start of the World Cup.

But Akhtar said the loss of the trio has helped unite the squad and galvanised them to push for a second World Cup victory to replicate their 1992 success.

“We are a hurt side so we are here to hurt others,” Akhtar said yesterday. “It’s better that it happened to us because every time a controversy happens it gathers us together and what better situation than before a World Cup?”

Pakistan beat co-hosts Sri Lanka by 11 runs in their last match after seeing off Kenya by 205 runs in their opening game.

Akhtar, 35, admitted he was missing Aamer and Asif but said others have stepped up.

“Obviously without Aamer and Asif we have suffered badly, they were the best with the new ball, it’s unfortunate what happened to them. Had they been with us it would have been the most lethal bowling attack,” he said.

“But the way [Umar] Gul and [Abdul] Razzaq have been bowling, the way [Wahab] Riaz is bowling, we can still do a much better job as we have variety in our attack.”

Akhtar, who has taken 246 wickets in 162 one-day internationals, said he had changed his bowling style to maintain his fitness, concentrating on accuracy rather than the pure pace that in the past regularly saw him bowl in excess of 100mph.

“I left this race of bowling at 100mph a long time ago,” he said. “I am nearing 36 now and am more mature, so I am focusing more on getting wickets now than bowling fast. But I crossed 98mph the other day.”

He said he is enjoying the chance to perform on the world stage after injury and discipline problems left him sidelined four years ago.

But he warned his teammates – who next face Canada in Colombo on Thursday – not to be over confident after beating Sri Lanka. “We have to move on and we shouldn’t get complacent,” he said.

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