The most astonishing match of the Champions Trophy, with all results possible till the last ball, saw India knocked out of the tournament and Australia confirmed as toppers of Group A, from which Pakistan also qualified.
While India were busy skittling West Indies out at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, their fate was sealed when Australia held their nerve to win a last-ball thriller against Pakistan. Indian fans at the Wanderers used every possible means — television, radio, mobile phones — to keep track of the action at Centurion.
Even India’s players, out on the dressing-room balcony, while the openers began the chase of 130, were glued to the television and cheered as Rana Naved-ul-Hasan bowled a 47th over maiden.
When the last over began, with Nathan Hauritz and Brett Lee at the crease, and four runs needed, the game was slipping out of Pakistan’s grasp, and the exit door beckoned India.
When Lee drove Umar Gul past mid-on for a penultimate ball single, the scores were tied and India were out. With the pressure of qualifying off them, Australia scampered a leg-bye off the last ball, winning by two wickets.
Until Australia began their chase on what was a tricky pitch to bat on, several questions were raised about why Pakistan batted as they did, with abundant caution, to reach 205/6 from 50 overs.
Despite having wickets, Pakistan’s batsmen barely accelerated, even failing to make use of the powerplay. When Australia batted, and themselves struggled, as Pakistan put in a typically fighting performance with the ball, it became clear that cynicism about Pakistan’s motives was unwarranted.
Ricky Ponting summed it up succinctly. “I had chewed all my fingernails off. It was tough to score quickly, the bounce was inconsistent and it spun at the end so we were lucky to restrict them to that total.” What was lucky for Australia was the final nail in India’s coffin.