Dropped catches cost Pakistan dear as they were knocked out of the Cricket World Cup with a six-wicket defeat to Australia.
Misbah-ul-Haq’s side failed to defend a moderate total of 213 in the third quarter- final as knocks from Steven Smith (65) and Shane Watson (64 not out) carried the co-hosts home.
Glenn Maxwell chipped in an unbeaten 44 runs to ensure the victory with 97 balls to spare.
Wahab Riaz almost put Pakistan on the road to victory with two wickets for 54 runs, but two dropped catches at crucial junctures of the game meant they paid the ultimate price.
Australian pacer Josh Hazlewood, with four wickets for 35 runs, was the chief destroyer of Pakistan’s batting, backed by Mitchell Starc and Glenn Maxwell.
For Pakistan, Haris Sohail top scored with 41 and skipper Misbah chipped in with 34. Together they put on 73 in 109 balls.
Pakistan won the toss and promptly elected to bat.
Starc, bowling at tremendous speed, had in-form Sarfraz Ahmad edge to Shane Watson at slip in the fifth over. It was a perfect demonstration of how a slip catch should be taken off a bowler sending them down at over 145km/h.
Hazlewood dismissed opener Ahmad Shehzad in the sixth over after he played a poor shot to a wide delivery. Skipper Michael Clarke at second slip gleefully accepted the catch. Misbah would have followed but the bails stayed one despite Hazlewood’s delivery clipping leg stump.
Misbah and Sohail took the score to 97 before Maxwell provided the breakthrough. Going for a slog sweep, Misbah top-edged to Aaron Finch at deep midwicket for 34.
Sohail immediately followed, driving away from his body at Mitchell Johnson and offering an edge to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for 41.
Half the side were back in the pavilion when Umar Akmal gave Finch another catch in the deep off Maxwell for 20. Had Johnson held on to a Sohaib Maqsood return catch in the next over, the Pakistan innings would have wound up even faster.
Shahid Afridi and Maqsood steered Pakistan past the 150 run mark with a partnership of 34. Afridi’s innings ended when he also offered a catch to Finch at deep mid wicket for 23 of Hazlewood.
Afridi was the third batsman to fall trying to hit over the tempting short square boundary. Hazlewood went on to dismiss Maqsood for 29, the batsman failing to clear Johnson at cover.
When Wahab Riaz edged a Starc ball to wicketkeeper Haddin for 16, even 200 looked unlikely. Hazlewood took his fourth wicket when Sohail Khan top-edged him, again to Haddin. The last pair of Ehsan Ali and Rahat Ali saw Pakistan across the 200 mark, adding 18 runs between them.
Chasing a low target still required a good start, but Aaron Finch fell to the third ball of the third over from Sohail Khan. Despite being hit right in front of the stumps, Finch wasted a review on the leg before decision.
David Warner and Smith added 34 runs in the next six overs before Warner tried to upper cut a short and wide Riaz delivery and found the hands of Rahat Ali at third man for 24. Michael Clarke joined Smith with Pakistan’s vociferous fans getting behind their team.
The pair put on just ten runs between them before Riaz got Clarke out with lifting delivery which he played awkwardly into the waiting hands of Maqsood at forward short leg for 8.
Riaz would have taken the wicket of Watson on four had Rahat not dropped a simple catch off a top edge at fine leg. The partnership between Watson and Smith was only 25 runs old then. Watson, after a shaky start, settled down, while Smith played beautifully picking the gaps.
The pair put together a partnership of 89 runs in 16 overs before Smith was trapped leg before for 65. Australia needed another 65 in the next 23 overs at that point.
Maxwell, when on 5, would have followed immediately had a top-edge off Riaz was not dropped by Sohail Khan at third man. It was the silliest of shots to play at a crucial point in the game.
Had the two drops been taken, Riaz’s tally would already have been four wickets.
After the life, Maxwell made batting look easy. He hit Riaz for two consecutive boundaries in the next over.
In the 32nd over, he hit Adil over the covers for a four, before an effortless pull for six.
When Watson hit Riaz for another six over deep square leg, the result became a formality.