Four-time former champions Australia set up an explosive semifinal clash against title-holders India in the cricket World Cup semifinal after comprehensively beating Pakistan by six wickets in the mega-event’s third quarterfinal on Friday.
Set a modest target of 214, Australia overcame a tumultuous start to go past the finishing line in 33.5 overs after the home pacers, led by Josh Hazlewood (4/35), wrecked the Pakistani line-up.
Steve Smith top-scored for the Aussies with a 69-ball 65 knock, which was studded with seven fours, while all-rounder Shane Watson survived early jitters to carefully craft an unbeaten 66-ball 64, including seven fours and a six.
Pakistan had themselves to blame for the World Cup ouster as they dropped two easy catches, allowing the hosts to wriggle out of a precarious position.
Australia’s chase was not off to a very smooth start with opener Aaron Finch departing in the third over after contributing just 2 runs. The David Warner blitzkrieg also ended pretty quickly after the dasher had made 24 off 23 deliveries, including three fours.
In fact, Wahab Riaz was simply outstanding in his opening spell of six overs, during which he snared two wickets conceding only 24 runs.
The pacer bowled with aggression and passion, unsettling the Aussies with not just his deliveries but also with occasional glares and constant chirps, which irked the batsmen and invited jeers from the packed crowd.
Riaz could well have pulled off three wickets in the opening spell had Rahat Ali held on to a dolly in the 17th over when Watson was on just 4 runs. He eventually finished with figures of 2/54 from nine overs.
Australians were poised rather precariously at 59 for three after skipper Michael Clarke (8) failed to click.
However, Smith and Watson shared 89 runs for the fourth wicket to steer Australia out of trouble before Glenn Maxwell (44 not out) guided them to victory and a semifinal showdown with India on March 26 in Sydney.
Smith was adjudged LBW off Ehsan Adil and despite being unconvinced by the decision, the batsman had to trudge off the field as Australia had exhausted their lone review by that stage.
His fall did raise hopes of a Pakistan revival but they again let the opportunity slip when Sohail Khan dropped Maxwell’s miscued shot, once again leaving Riaz in agony.
Earlier, Josh Hazlewood stood out with a four-wicket haul as Australia’s disciplined bowlers strangled Pakistan with a thoroughly commanding performance, skittling them out for 213.
Electing to bat after winning the toss, Pakistan were stifled for runs by the Aussie bowlers and folded without putting up much of a fight in 49.5 overs.
Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc (2/40) kept it tight to begin with before Mitchell Johnson (1/42) intimidated the Pakistanis with his ferocious pace.