Misbah-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Sohaib Maqsood all fell to rash strokes and the blame squarely lies on them rather than the brilliance of the bowlers. Clarke choked the singles with utmost perfection and Pakistan simply fell into that trap.
Misbah, who rightly batted first after winning the toss, and Haris had neutralised the early loss of both openers by taking the score to 97-2 in 23 overs. But when Pakistan's procession of wickets starts, it generally finds it difficult to stop it.
Clarke cleverly rotated his bowling resources and, although Glenn Maxwell went for a few runs, the off-spinner got two prized scalps of Misbah and Umar, both caught identically at the mid-wicket fence.
It was not for the first time in this ICC Cricket World Cup that Pakistan batsmen have stuttered. It was the third time in the last five matches. Against Zimbabwe Pakistan was bowled out for 230-odd runs, while against South Africa the score was more or less the same, thanks to the Duckworth/Lewis method. In both these matches, it was the fast bowlers who took the side home.
The only consolation for Pakistan was a magnificent spell of fast bowling by Wahab Riaz who bowled one of the most lethal spells of left-arm fast bowling I have seen for a long time in international cricket.
The way Wahab tested Shane Watson with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries, it reminded me the fiery days of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. Who knows what the result could have been had Rahat Ali caught Watson and Sohail Khan didn't drop Maxwell? But then Pakistan came to the tournament with a bad fielding reputation and it justified this by dropping around 15 catches in seven matches. One catch could change the result and Pakistan dropped more than two per match! It's too many!
Wahab was lethal and, more importantly, accurate. The way he made Shane hop and jump not only made the match look fascinating but also exposed Australia’s vulnerability against short and express fast bowling. Due to the surfaces they play their cricket on, the first natural movement of the Australia batsmen is front foot, but when a 150kph delivery is targeted around the head area, there is little time to recover and this is exactly what Wahab exposed last night.
In the coming days, a lot will be written and said about this contest between Wahab and Shane, but I hope people don’t forget the way Wahab accounted for Clarke, one of the finest batsmen against genuine fast bowling. It was not only aggressive bowling but intelligent captaincy. I am sure India will have seen this with interest and would have learnt from Wahab. I will be keen to see it pounce on this as it is definitely a better side than Pakistan.
Hats off to the Pakistan fast bowlers, who brought the team this far in the tournament. Only against the UAE, the batsmen were able to take the side past the 300-run mark. Victories against teams like the United Arab Emirates, Ireland and Zimbabwe were expected but they didn’t come easy either. But look at the losses – India, West Indies and Australia – three powerhouses of cricket.
The only silver lining in an otherwise below par ICC Cricket World Cup for Pakistan was the hostile bowling of Wahab and the emergence of Sarfraz Ahmed as opening batsman. Adam Gilchrist used to open in one-day internationals for Australia and I can't see any reason why Sarfraz cannot be groomed on similar lines. When a team has a wicketkeeper-batsman, it gives it a leverage of adding a regular bowler and field a more aggressive playing XI.