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Australia beat Pakistan to make World Cup semis

20 March 2015, 15:01

Adelaide - Shane Watson made the most of an early reprieve to guide Australia to a six-wicket win over Pakistan with an unbeaten 64 in the Cricket World Cup quarterfinals on Friday.

Pakistan won the toss and batted but was all out for 213 in the 50th over, with recalled paceman Josh Hazlewood taking 4-35 for Australia.

The Australians lost opener Aaron Finch (2) with the total on 15 and withstood a torrid spell from Wahab Riaz (2-54) in the middle of the chase.

Riaz was unlucky to have two catches put down, especially Watson on 4. At that point, Australia was 83-3, Riaz was firing at 150 kph, and the allrounder was shaky.

Meanwhile, Steve Smith was batting serenely, proving to be the rock Australia needed.

Watson weathered Riaz and forged an 89-run fourth-wicket stand with Smith (65), and an unbeaten 68-run stand with Glenn Maxwell (44 not out), who was also dropped early in his innings off Riaz.

Watson hit the winning runs with a boundary in the 34th over, taking the Australian total to 216-4 and ensuring a semifinal against defending champion India in Sydney next week.

"Extremely happy, a close game in the end — the way Shane Watson hung in there was fantastic," Australia captain Michael Clarke said. "That's pressure of the finals. You're under the pressure all the time, whether with the bat, in the field, or with the ball."

Clarke praised Riaz, who bowled with venom.

"You catch Watto at fine leg, it could have been a lot tighter," Clarke said. "Wahab bowled really well. Really tested us out."

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said batting let his team down again, as it did in the opening two losses in the pool stage against India and West Indies.

"We're obviously disappointed, Australia bowled really well," he said. "At one stage, 270 or 280 was pretty much on, but we kept losing wickets."

Riaz's bowling was the highlight of the game for 1992 champion Pakistan. Misbah vowed his attack, without the injured Mohammad Irfan, wouldn't be intimidated by the Australian batsmen, and would match aggression with aggression.

Riaz removed David Warner (24) in the ninth over, and had Clarke (8) out mistiming a bouncer and fending to short-leg in the 11th. He then greeted Watson with perfectly directed short-pitch deliveries and glares.

He was desperately unlucky not to get his wicket in the 17th, when Watson hooked to Rahat Ali, who put down a regulation chance at deep fine leg at 83-3. It was a genuine game-changer, with Watson and Smith surviving the next few overs, and steering Australia back on course for the win.

Smith's assured 69-ball knock ended when he was adjudged lbw to Ehsan Adil at 148-4 in the 27th.

The reintroduction of Riaz to the attack should have yielded an immediate breakthrough but Maxwell's miscued, thick top edge was dropped by Sohail Khan running in from third man.

From then on, it was all Australia. Watson hit seven boundaries and a six in his 66-ball knock, his second half century since a recall after he was dropped for against Afghanistan, and Maxwell clobbered five fours and two sixes in his 29-ball innings.

Hazlewood justified his recall with a four-wicket burst.

Misbah's decision to bat backfired as Pakistan slumped to 24-2 in the sixth over, with Mitchell Starc removing in-form opener Sarfraz Ahmed (10) in the fifth over, and Hazlewood taking his first wicket in the next over to dismiss Ahmed Shehzad (4).

Misbah had a let-off before he'd scored when a delivery from Hazlewood brushed his thigh pad and grazed his leg stump, making the bail flash without dislodging it.

He shared a 73-run partnership with Haris Sohail (41) for the third wicket. But just as confidence was growing, Misbah attacked part-time spinner Maxwell (2-43) and was caught on the boundary.

Five of the Pakistan batsmen got decent starts but didn't go on with it, with Sohail leading the run-scorers with 41 from 57 balls before he was caught behind off Mitchell Johnson in the 27th to make the score 112-4.

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- AP


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