Monday, April 27, 2009

australia vs pakistan 3rd odi:Clarke takes Australia closer to series win

Stand-in Australian captain Michael Clarke led by example with a fine all-round display as his side defeated Pakistan by 27 runs in the third one-day international at Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Monday. Australia now leads the five-match one day international series 2-1.

Clarke's half-century and three wickets helped Australia take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.

Clarke, who was appointed captain after the selectors decided to rest Ricky Ponting, first helped Australia put up a decent target of 199 with a fighting 66 off 93 balls, well assisted by Callum Ferguson (41). He then bowled his off-spinners to return with figures of 3-15 from six overs as Pakistan collapsed from 95 for no loss to 171 all out.

His fellow off-spinner Nathan Hauritz took 2-25 in his ten overs.

Pakistan made heavy weather of their run chase with four overs of recklessness undoing all the good effort put in by the openers Salman Butt (48) and Ahmed Shehzad (40). The pair put on 95 runs for the first wicket when Hauritz struck twice in as many deliveries to trigger the slide.

Butt edged one to Clarke in the slips and Younis Khan played a chip shot to Andrew Symonds for a golden duck.

Misbah-ul-Haq started with a six but he perished going for another ambitious one to Clarke. His wicket rattled Shehzad, who had crossed and was bowled the next delivery, having failed to see the arm ball.

The flamboyant Shahid Afridi survived the second hat-trick ball of the innings but soon after top-edged a catch to David Hussey.

The tail failed to support Shoaib Malik, who hung on for a fighting knock of 30 from 56 balls, but when he was run out, his team was still 28 runs short.

Clarke believed the pressure was now on Pakistan who is hosting the series in the UAE after Australia refused to tour the country because of security concerns.

"Both sides have failed to improve on their batting. But we did the job in the end and I am happy that my players responded well to the challenge.”

"We did well but need to work hard on our batting. We have five days before the next match to sort out our problems," he said.

Clarke admitted that his side was 20-30 runs short of their intended target after Pakistan's spinners again proved effective in restricting them to 198.

Although pace bowler Umar Gul claimed three wickets, leg-spinner Shahid Afridi took 2-31 and off-spinner Shoaib Malik 1-22 to tie down the Australians in the middle overs.

After Clarke won the toss and elected to bat, Australian openers James Hopes and Brad Haddin put on 28 in 33 balls before the loss of two quick wickets slowed the team's run rate.

Hopes tried to steal a single but was run out by Pakistan captain Younus Khan in the sixth over. Four balls later, Shane Watson played a delivery from Gul onto his stumps and Australia was 28-2.

Haddin then got bogged down and after his departure, Symonds too was dismissed cheaply. The all-rounder who hit a half-century and took two wickets in the last game to help Australia level the series, was trapped leg-before-wicket on 7 to Afridi.

Australia's strategy to negotiate the spinners in the middle overs and then attack failed when Afridi caught and bowled Clarke in the 39th over, just after he took the batting powerplay.

Clarke's 53-run partnership with Ferguson for the fifth wicket ultimately proved crucial in the low-scoring match.

"I have always maintained that we are up against the best side in the world. They are the number one side and it showed in their performance today," Younus said.

The losing captain defended the display by the batsmen saying: "They are all experienced players who are coming after long breaks owing to fitness. Players like Afridi and Misbah are going through a bad patch and I am sure they will do well in the next game."

The next two games are on Friday and Sunday before the teams head back to Dubai for a Twenty20 international.

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