Australia qualified for the Champions Trophy semifinals with a thrilling two-wicket win over Pakistan on Wednesday at SuperSport Park thanks to a last-ball bye.
The defending champions, having won the toss and restricted Pakistan to 205-6 off 50 overs, appeared to be coasting home with 140 runs on the board, seven wickets in hand and almost 19 overs left.
But as the Pakistani bowlers came alive, wickets tumbled and Australia entered the final over needing five runs to win a match transformed into a thriller after being tedious to watch for so long. Tail-enders Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz picked off singles against superb bowling from Umar Gul and some inspired fielding to reach 206-8 in the best match so far of the tournament.
Man-of-the-match Michael Hussey top scored with 64 and Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson took two wickets each for the Australians, who face England Friday in the first semi-final. Pakistan were never comfortable on a seam-friendly wicket and openers Kamran Akmal and Shahid Afridi compiled only 30 when the partnership was terminated on an overcast day.
Afridi was forced to play a pull off Mitchell Johnson and James Hopes covered ground quickly to take the catch as Pakistan struggled to match the form that reaped 302 runs against India last weekend.
Kamran also paid dearly for attempting a pull off Watson and the ball took a bottom edge into leg stump to leave Pakistan 75-2 approaching the 20-over mark. It was lacklustre fare from teams who could meet again in the final with barely a murmur from the small crowd who braved cool conditions to watch the action.
Skipper Younus Khan was the third Pakistani victim and his innings summed up the lethargy that enveloped his team with 49 balls needed to garner an 18-run total that included just two fours.
Johnson joined the Australian 100 ODI wicket club with a soft one as Shoaib Malik attempted a drive only to send the ball straight to Ponting at short cover. Mohammed Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq consolidated the innings with a 63-run fifth-wicket stand before the former was caught by Cameroon White trying to steer a Brett Lee delivery over midwicket.
Misbah hit his wicket in the final over and the most unpredictable team in world cricket must have sensed they had not scored enough runs to avoid losing and slipping to second spot on the table.
After ducks against the Windies and India, Watson was desperate for runs and struck five boundaries in a brisk 24 before Gul deceived him and the ball edged to Kamran.