Pakistan had made it into the quarter finals after more than just a rough start. They had been crushed by their arch rivals India and then fell to an embarassing 1-4 facing the West Indies before collapsing for 160. It was not unexpected that Pakistan would suffer with three of their front-line bowlers being injured or barred from the competition but their performance had been well below par. However they came back to beat South Africa who had just posted back-to-back 400+ totals. It was a low scoring game where Pakistan defended 222. They bowled South Africa out for 202 and the game brought back painful memories of the 2011 quarter final between New Zealand and South Africa. In doing so, Pakistan scraped into the quarter finals and pushed Ireland out.
Even though Pakistan were missing some key players, they still had a decent bowling attack. It was their batting had let them down on more than one occassion and this day was no different. Had they been able to reach 250-260+ they would have been in with a real chance.
Both openers were removed cheaply once again. Haris Sohail and Pakistan’s saviour Misbah Ul Haq came together at the crease and put on a decent partnership. The pair batted well and built up the innings again. However on 97 Misbah was caught in the deep. From then on, the innings began to collapse. The Pakistani batsmen got out to rash shots and bad placement of the ball. Umar Akmal smashed the ball straight down Finch’s throat. A few metres either side and it would have been a boundary. Four of the Pakistani batsmen were caught out in the field. They used the batting powerplay poorly and even though a small cameo from Shahid Afridi kept the spirit of the fans up it was not enough to push the team up to a defendable total.
The Australians lived up to their name as the aggressors. They taunted the tail-enders, in particular Wahab Riaz. Mitchell Starc and Shane Watson mockingly explained what a cricket ball was and that he should try and hit it. They fired up Riaz, a decision Watson would later come to regret. Had someone put a thermometer anywhere near Riaz it would have burst. The hosts finally plowed through the tail end and Pakistan finished on 213 runs.
The fact that Australia won by six wickets does not do the match justice. Pakistan bowled masterfully. The opening bowlers pulled off great lines and lengths and Sohail Khan had Finch lbw early on. However that wasn’t going to be enough. Pakistan needed a big breakthrough. They needed a gamechanger, and that’s just what they got. At the first bowling change, Wahab Riaz was brought in. Still fired up from his encounter with Starc and Watson he was ready to take on the entire Australian team single handedly. Riaz bowled with the aggression of Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson togehter in every single delivery. He took down David Warner with his 3rd delivery and bounced out Michael Clarke with his 10th. Australia were 59-3 and Riaz was not finished. He peppered Watson with the short ball and Watson could not get away. The tension between the two was explosive. Steve Smith was playing well at the other end but nothing else was relevant when Riaz came steaming in to bowl at Watson. He finally cracked under the pressure playing a release shot straight to Rahat Ali. Australia were about to be 83-4. Then Rahat Ali dropped the catch. There are no second chances when you’re defending 213, each chance and half chance needs to be taken. Even at 83-4 it would have been difficult to win but it was a knock-out game and Watson’s return to the dressing room could have thoroughly rattled the hosts.
With the dropped catch it was as though the fight had been drained from the team. Riaz bowled one too many overs in the hope to recreate Watson’s mistake but he began to tire and Watson finally got away. Along with Smith they breezed through to 148 before Smith was caught out lbw by Ehsan Adil. As the partnership broke Riaz was brought back for one final fight. Another catch off his bowling went down, luckily for Glenn Maxwell, which could have left Australia 154-5. It was not meant to be. It appeared only Riaz was in the fight against Australia. Watson and Maxwell finished off the innings and with it pushed Australia into the semi-finals.
No matter the result, the game will be rememebered for Wahab Riaz’s unyielding spell. A spell that would go down in history as one of the greatest.