That Pakistan went down to Australia without much of a fight in the quarter-finals at Adelaide will not have surprised many. They have often come unstuck on the big day, and this was just another occasion. Their batting totally fell apart, and the bowlers had little chance against a talented Aussie line-up. They did fight hard, particularly Wahab Riaz, who was all fire and fury. At the end of the day though, their batsmen had left them with too much to do, and some school boyish fielding did not help their cause. Australia reigned supreme with the ball, and although they had tense moments with the bat, they hung through them.
It was a given that if Pakistan had to compete against Australia, they had to fire. That did not happen, and Pakistan knew that the match was all but gone there itself. It was an extremely amateurish performance from Pakistan, especially after they lost their openers early. Sarfraz Ahmed's failure could be understood since he had batted well in the previous two games. But, Ahmed Shehzad really should have done better since he had only just regained form. The middle and lower order showed no sense of responsibility. Everyone from Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood to even skipper Misbah-ul-Haq got their eye in only to throw it away.
Pakistan had defended a low score against South Africa as well in the league stages. But, on that occasion they had 20-30 extra runs on the board, which made a huge difference. Also, Australia are mentally stronger than South Africa when it comes to a chase. To their credit, the Pakistan pace bowlers gave it their everything. As mentioned above, Riaz was spectacular. He made the Aussies dance to his tunes with the short balls. But, the simple drop of Shane Watson at a time when Australia were in trouble turned the game. Such are moments that separate the good sides from the great ones, and grassed chance may haunt Rahat Ali for a while now.
Australia should be extremely pleased with the win, which sees them join India and South Africa in the semi-finals. Their bowling was particularly top class on the day although they were aided by some poor Pakistani batting. The decision to bring in the control of Josh Hazlewood ahead of the fiery pace of Pat Cummins would have been a tough one, but Hazlewood proved what was a master-stroke it was by turning in a match-winning performance. Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc were expected to lead the bowling, but they were reduced to supporting roles. Glenn Maxwell also chipped in well with a couple of wickets.
Although they won rather comprehensively in the end, a couple of worries remain for the Aussies. It has been a few games since they have got a decent start. Aaron Finch kicked off the World Cup with a hundred, but has looked out of place since. David Warner too has a ton against his name, but he hasn't set the tournament on fire, as expected. The manner in which Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was undone by Pakistan's pace bowlers was a clear indication of the fact that he isn't at his best yet. Luckily for Australia, Steven Smith, Shane Watson and Maxwell saw them through, with support from Pakistan's fielders. There is scope for improvement for sure.
--By A Cricket Analyst