Pakistan left to rue what might have been

Captains say dropped catches crucial as Australia book semi-final place.

Adelaide: Pakistan literally dropped themselves out of the World Cup as fielding errors cost them as they failed to defend a moderate total of 213 in their World Cup quarter-final against Australia here on Friday.

Instead Australia marched into a semi-final with India with a six-wicket win, riding on half-centuries from Steven Smith (65) and Shane Watson (64no). Glenn Maxwell chipped in an unbeaten 44 to ensure the victory with 97 balls to spare. They will take on India at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.

Wahab Riaz tried heroically to put Pakistan on the road to victory with two wickets for 54 runs, but two dropped catches at a crucial juncture of the game proved costly.

Riaz would have picked up the wicket of Watson on four had Rahat Ali not dropped a simple catch off a top edge at fine leg. The partnership between Watson and Smith was only 25 runs old then. But Watson, after a shaky start, settled down and, with Smith playing beautifully, they put on 89 runs in 16 overs.

Maxwell also would have gone on five had a top edged shot from him off Riaz not dropped by Sohail Khan at third man. It was the silliest of shot to play at a crucial moment of the game and a simple catch as per international standards.

Had those two chances been taken, Riaz’s tally would have been four wickets with the possibility of more to come.

Australia skipper Michael Clarke admitted that if Pakistan had taken their catches the result could have been different.

“The bowlers did a fantastic job, our fielding was excellent, but Wahab came out and really put us under pressure. It was one of the fastest spells I’ve seen in a long time,” he said.

“Watson toughed it out, Steven Smith looked fantastic. If they caught Watto [Watson] at fine leg it could have been a lot tighter, credit to sticking in there. Wahab pushed us really hard.”

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq refused to place the blame squarely on the two catches alone, saying: “Actually we just lost our way in the middle overs. We were really going well at one stage, but after 20 to 23 overs, suddenly we just keep losing wickets and that’s been the trend throughout the World Cup.

“We are getting starts but we were not converting them into bigger scores. Our first six batsmen kept doing that and it makes it really difficult for the bowling line-up to defend totals like that every day, especially on batting pitches like we were playing on today.”

Australia’s bowlers did a great job to restrict Pakistan’s batting, with Mitchell Starc again impressive and Josh Hazlewood proving he is much better than Pat Cummins when it comes to line and length bowling. This duo was well backed up by spinner Maxwell with two timely wickets.

With Watson also giving away only 17 runs from his five overs, the hosts’ bowlers did a wonderful job. Hazlewood’s spell of four for 35 won him the man of the match award.

For Pakistan, Haris Sohail top scored with 41 and Misbah chipped in with 34. Together they put on 73 runs in 109 balls, but their effort went in vain.

“Nobody in this world can be good against a bowler like Riaz, who is bowling at 150kmh and with this sort of deceptive pace and bounce,” Misbah said.

“He really bowled well throughout the World Cup. He was totally a different bowler and today he’s shown his class again. At one stage we were pretty much in the game with the way he was bowling, but that catch could have made a big difference.”

Clarke is ready for a battle in the semi-final against India, saying: “We look forward to another really tough contest against India. We will have to bat a lot better.”