Australia beaten at last, Bangladesh bow out

Pakistan snapped Australia’s unbeaten run and South Africa broke 162-million Bangladeshi hearts by shoving the co-hosts out, leaving only the top eight teams in the knockout stage of possibly the most open World Cup.

After a month of intense drama, the stifling suspense in Group B finally lifted in Dhaka where a ruthless South Africa dismantled Bangladesh to pave the way for India, England and West Indies to reach the quarterfinals.

In Colombo, Ricky Ponting digested his first World Cup defeat as captain after Pakistan ended Australia’s 34-match unbeaten run in the tournament dating back to 1999.

Each of the six Pakistani bowlers pressed into service responded with scalps to bowl out the four-times champions for a below par 176 in 46.4 overs.

Australian bowlers had genuine reasons to feel being let down by their batting colleagues when they came out to defend the inadequate total.

Brett Lee (4-28) still tried to make a match of it but Asad Shafiq (46) and Umar Akmal (44 not out) powered Pakistan to a four-wicket victory with nine overs to spare that put them on top of Group A.

“We certainly had a tough game today. We didn’t do ourselves any favours. I thought our batting effort was particularly ordinary,” a dejected Ponting said.

Australia’s loss means there is no unbeaten team left in the tournament which heads into the knockout stages next week.

Apart from Pakistan and Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand are the qualifiers from Group A.

A clear picture finally emerged in Group B as well after South Africa’s 206-run victory over a sorry Bangladesh.

Talent export
Consequentially, England returned from the brink of elimination to join the hunt for the elusive trophy, thanks to the country they are already indebted to for a steady export of talented players that include skipper Andrew Strauss.

Bangladesh’s faint hopes of making it to the quarter-finals hinged on an upset but South Africa provided a cruel reminder of the co-hosts’ standings in world cricket.

South Africa rested both Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel but still their attack had enough firepower and sting to shoot out Bangladesh, chasing 285 for victory, for an embarrassingly meagre 78 in 28 overs.

It was a stern message to the ambitious co-hosts that Bangladesh may pull off an upset here and there but they lack the consistency that could take them to the business end of the showpiece event.

The majority of the 25 000-strong crowd at the Shere Bangla National Stadium had already abandoned their seats long before the last rites were administered.

“Just sorry,” mumbled their embarrassed skipper Shakib Al Hasan, the only batsman to manage a double digit score in that shambolic innings.

“The way we finished the tournament was not the way we wanted to finish. We wanted to finish on a high. But that can happen in cricket.

“We didn’t play good cricket throughout the tournament. Though we won some matches, we didn’t play good cricket.”

With just one day to go before the group stage winds up, the World Cup looks incredibly open with none of the teams sporting that aura of invincibility that went with the West Indies team in the late 1970s or the Australians in the late 1990s or the first decade of this century. – Reuters

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