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Australia beaten at last

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

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Kamran Akmal, Umar Gul, Younus Khan & Asad Shafiq

Umar Gul completes figures of 3-30. Australia's failure to defend 176 saw them lose a World Cup match for the first time since 1999

Pakistan were confirmed as winners of Group A and ended Australia’s incredible unbeaten run in World Cups courtesy of a four-wicket triumph in Colombo.

A bowling display that married potency with parsimony saw Pakistan dismiss Australia for a lowly 176, with Umar Gul and Abdul Razzaq to the fore.

Gul claimed 3-30 and Razzaq, introduced as late as the 35th over, 2-8 from four overs as no Australia batsman passed 50.

That none of the Pakistanis did so was less relevant, although they were thankful for Asad Shafiq’s composed 46 and an unbeaten 44 from Umar Akmal as they overcame the occasional Brett Lee-inspired wobble to wrap up victory.

Lee took the first four Pakistan wickets and finished with a more than creditable 4-28, but Australia were unable to defend an inadequate total.

"Asad did a great job," said Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi. "He and Umar played mature cricket. We needed a partnership at the right time and they provided that."

Defeat was Australia's first in 35 World Cup matches - a sequence stretching back almost 12 years - and a third-place finish in the group will see them face the Group B runners-up, which will be the winners of tomorrow’s clash between India and West Indies.

Pakistan were the last side to inflict defeat on Australia, at Headingley in 1999, and, in a further nod to history, it was Razzaq - alongside Ricky Ponting, one of only two players on duty today to feature in that game - who hit the winning runs when he thumped Jason Krejza through cover.

As Ponting admitted after the match, the cause of Australia’s demise lay with the bat, particularly after they won the toss at the R Premadasa Stadium.

"We certainly got a tough game today," Ponting said. "We didn't do ourselves any favours.

"Our batting was particularly ordinary. We started off well with the ball, gave ourselves a bit of a chance having them six down, but in the end not enough runs on the board."

Brett Lee & Ricky Ponting

Brett Lee, who was responsible for the first four Pakistan wickets, takes a fine return catch to remove Mohammad Hafeez

They may have lost Shane Watson cheaply when Gul nipped one back to beat his drive, but they would have been relatively content to reach 75 without further loss in the 19th over.

For that they owed much to Brad Haddin, who batted sensibly for his 42 off 80 balls, but he saw Ponting perish for 19 shortly before he himself succumbed.

Ponting, lacking in fluency once again, was adjudged caught behind cutting at Mohammad Hafeez after a successful Pakistan review. The delay saw Haddin become embroiled in a heated exchange with several Pakistan players, chief among them Afridi and Younus Khan.

After Haddin, opening the face, edged Wahab Riaz behind, Cameron White was run out chasing a single to Misbah-ul-Haq at backward square-leg.

Michael Clarke was bowled for 34 aiming across the line at Razzaq, who located Mitchell Johnson’s edge after Mike Hussey chipped Abdur Rehman tamely to short midwicket.

Australia’s collapse – they lost their last nine wickets for 101 runs – was irreversible, and Krejza and Lee fell to the impressive Gul either side of Afridi’s removal of Steven Smith for 25 with a googly.

Lee’s response with the ball was therefore all the more impressive, starting with a superb return catch to account for Hafeez after making good ground in his follow-through.

He almost single-handedly kept Australia’s hopes of victory alive by winning an lbw verdict against Kamran Akmal, before having Younus, who made 31, and Misbah caught behind off successive deliveries.

Umar and Shafiq converted a potentially precarious 98 for four into a position from which Pakistan would have been expected to triumph with ease, only for two wickets in six balls to suggest a late reversal in fortunes.

Umar Akmal

Umar Akmal eases the nerves in the Pakistan dressing room with typical flamboyancy on his way to a match-clinching unbeaten 44

Despite Haddin diving in front of him, Watson held a superb slip catch as the otherwise ineffective Johnson removed Shafiq, while Afridi, demonstrating a patent lack of common sense, swung Krejza to long-on.

Umar was far from a model of calm, but his mixture of occasionally outlandish swipes and cleanly struck drives, allied to Razzaq’s much-needed experience at the other end, saw Pakistan home with nine overs to spare.

Casting his mind forward to a quarter-final clash with West Indies or England in Dhaka, Afridi said: "I don't think any team is weak in this competition.

"This win was important to keep us in a good position in the group. We will now play the quarter-final with good and positive body language."