Australia grab semi-final place with last gasp win

CENTURION, South Africa, (Reuters) – Australia  almost stole defeat from the jaws of victory before booking their place in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy with a  riveting final ball, two-wicket win over Pakistan yesterday.

Australia, the reigning champions and unbeaten before this Centurion clash after a win and a washout, were cruising to their victory target of 206 before late wickets meant a scrambled single off the final ball secured the win.

Ricky Ponting’s side will play England in the first semi at Centurion tomorrow. Pakistan play New Zealand in Johannesburg on Saturday in the second semi-final.

Australia sent Pakistan in to bat and restricted them to 205 for six in 50 overs, and then looked in firm control of the run chase while Mike Hussey was at the crease as the left-hander breezed to 64 off 87 deliveries

He was sent packing by a perfect yorker from Rana Naved  ul-Hasan, sparking a middle-order collapse that saw Australia lose four wickets for 13 runs as they crashed to 187 for eight.

But Brett Lee (12*) and Nathan Hauritz (9*) kept their cool as they added 19 runs for the ninth wicket, scoring 18 off the last three overs, and four off the 50th over, to seal a  thrilling victory.

Hussey was the one batsman to play with ease on a pitch which was awkward for batting, stroking six elegant fours and a six.

Returning seamer Mohammad Asif threatened to snatch a dramatic victory when he dismissed James Hopes (1) and Cameron White (5) in the 42nd over to finish with two for 34. Asif was  playing his first ODI in over a year, having completed a  one-year ban for doping earlier this month.

Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal also produced a top-class spell of  two for 31 in 10 overs as Australia came perilously close to  making a hash of their run chase.

Pakistan’s total was built around a fifth-wicket partnership  of 63 off 88 balls between Mohammad Yousuf (45) and Misbah  ul-Haq (41).

Misbah needed just 53 deliveries for his runs but was  dismissed in the final over when he stepped into his own stumps  with his back foot as Shane Watson bowled a wide.

Kamran Akmal batted aggressively at the top of the innings  to score 44, but the uneven bounce did not suit his  strokeplaying intentions.

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