ICC Champions Trophy, Centurion Park, Centurion: Australia 206-8 (50 ovs) bt Pakistan 205-6 (50 ovs) by two wickets Match scorecard
Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz held their nerves to seal Australia's semi-final spot
By Pranav Soneji
Australia limped to a tense two-wicket, last-ball win over Pakistan to top Group A and set up a Champions Trophy semi-final against England on Friday.
Put into bat first on a helpful seaming wicket at Centurion Park, Pakistan, who will face New Zealand in the last four, struggled to 205-6 from 50 overs.
After cruising to 140-2, Australia lost Ricky Ponting (32) and Mike Hussey (64) as Pakistan took control of the match.
But from 187-8, Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz took Australia past the target.
The tense win also sealed India's elimination from the competition as Mahendra Dhoni's side required rivals Pakistan to beat Ponting's side.
But after dictating the tempo of the match for 80 overs, with Ponting and Hussey well set at the crease following an 81-run fourth-wicket stand, Australia crumbled as Pakistan's diverse bowling attack tore holes through the middle order.
Fast bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was at the heart of Pakistan's resurgence, mixing yorkers and slower deliveries bowling in conjunction with the guile of off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, bamboozling Australia's tail with his repertoire of variations.
However, needing 18 from 18 deliveries, Hauritz eased the pressure with an on-driven boundary off Rana in the 49th over to take Australia past 200 with four more runs for victory in the final over.
Mohammad Asif took a wicket on his international return for Pakistan
Two dot balls from Umar Gul heightened the increasing tension around Centurion Park, but the ninth-wicket duo ran a bye from the very last delivery of the match to seal a nerve-wracking victory.
"I was chewing my fingers nails up there for the last little bit," said skipper Ponting. "That ended up being closer than I thought was possible."
The defending champions will return to Centurion Park on Friday for the first semi-final against a resurgent England, whom they comprehensively beat 6-1 in the one-day series earlier in the month.
Already assured of their place in the last four, Pakistan opted to rest impressive teenage fast bowler Mohammad Aamir, with Mohammad Asif drafted in to make his first international appearance in nearly 18 months, while Misbah-ul-Haq was given the nod ahead of opener Imran Nazir.
The Centurion Park wicket, which has played more consistently than the unpredictable decks at the Wanderers, offered encouraging moisture for the faster bowlers to exploit.
And Ponting had no hesitation inserting Pakistan into bat after winning the toss, making the breakthrough in the eighth over when makeshift opener Shahid Afridi top-edged an attempted pull from Mitchell Johnson's first delivery to square leg.
Opener Akmal and skipper Younus Khan took their side to 74-1 before the wicketkeeper bottom-edged on to his stumps six runs short of his half century in the 19th over.
Younus fell soon after, a laboured 18 from 49 deliveries while ex-skipper Shoaib Malik became Johnson's 100th one-day victim when he flailed a wide delivery outside off stump to Ponting at short cover as Pakistan stuttered to 123-4 in the 32nd over.
Mohammad Yousuf (45) and Misbah (41) consolidated, albeit at a pedestrian pace, as Pakistan limped to 205-6 from their 50 overs, with seamers Shane Watson (2-32) and Mitchell Johnson (2-45) in impressive form.
Australia's openers made a brisk start with Watson flogging five boundaries before edging a superb Gul delivery outside off stump to Kamran for 24.
Partner Tim Paine followed, lbw to Shahid Afridi, before Ponting and Hussey put on an untroubled 81 for the third wicket.
However, an injudicious slog-sweep from Ponting, brilliantly caught by Gul on the deep mid-wicket boundary in the 32nd over, sparked a middle-order collapse.
Hussey collected his second successive half century - his 24th in one-day cricket - but was then bowled by a vicious, inswinging yorker from Rana for 64.
And Cameron White soon had his off stump uprooted by an unplayable off-cutter from Asif before James Hopes drilled a catch to Younus at mid-on to leave Australia reeling at 175-6.
Rapidly running out of options, Australia took the batting powerplay in the 45th over, but lost the muscular Johnson (9) when he was bowled by a flawless Saeed Ajmal doosra five deliveries later.
But composed batting from Lee and Hauritz enabled Australia to edge past their victory target of 206, tying the scores off the penultimate delivery of the match to secure their semi-final passage before clinching the winning run a ball later.
Despite suffering their first defeat of the tournament, Pakistan skipper Younus was in upbeat mood.
"There's nothing bad about it because like South Africa and Sri Lanka in the last T20, you can win all your matches in the first stage and then suddenly lose a big game," he said Younus.
"It will be good for us, sometimes it's good for a team to be defeated, it makes you tougher."
Test Match Special will have live commentary on Friday's England v Australia semi-final and Monday's final.
Both games will be live on Five Live Sports Extra, Radio Four long wave and online for listeners in the UK.
The programme will start at 1315 BST on Friday and Monday.
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