SK Flashback: Lightning Lee strikes but lights out on Australia’s unbeaten streak in the 2011 World Cup
The Australian Cricket Team was having a great run in the World Cup, recording 25 consecutive wins since their victory against Pakistan in the final on 20th June 1999 till their triumph over New Zealand on 25th February 2011. They had not lost a single World Cup match since beating Bangladesh on 27th May 1999 up to their previous match on 16th March 2011 when they trounced Canada. The semi-final on 17th June 1999 was tied with South Africa, while the game against Sri Lanka on 5th March 2011 was washed out, ending the winning streak. Amazingly, the Australians had won all their 22 matches through the 2003 and 2007 tournaments.
The citadel had begun to crumble with so many stalwarts departing the scene. They were under pressure and up against Pakistan, the last team to beat them in the World Cup on 23rd May 1999. Their batsmen did not help matters by packing up for 176, with none of them scoring a fifty, and being bowled out in the World Cup for the first time since that exhilarating semi-final in 1999. The wicket was slow and a bit uneven, and the Pakistan batsmen could be unpredictable. Even so, the portents were not good. But Brett Lee was not a man to surrender such a proud record easily. In fact, Ricky Ponting was the only one in the entire squad who had experienced defeat in a World Cup match, and Lee was among the wickets in all but one of his 16 matches, having missed the 2007 tournament.
Lee struck in the third over. Mohammad Hafeez tried to flick towards the on-side but managed only a leading edge. As the ball flew up high Lee himself ran towards it and jubilantly held a tumbling catch. It was 12 for one. The Pakistani batsmen were getting adventurous but Lee, bowling his fifth over, swung one in sharply to trap Kamran Akmal plumb in front of the stumps. It was 45 for two and Australia were still in the fight.
It had already been a long spell by One-day standards and Lee was rested. Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan dug in. They raised the fifty of their partnership in the 22nd over. Pakistan were now sailing with 81 runs required in 28 overs with eight wickets in hand. Ponting brought back Lee. Sure enough Lightning Lee struck again. Younis nicked his fourth delivery and Brad Haddin behind the stumps gleefully pouched the ball. An aggressive field was now set for the incoming batsman Misbah-ul-Haq. Lee was able to get a bite from the wicket just outside off-stump and Misbah too edged. Haddin held on again. Lightning struck twice in the same manner. Suddenly it was 98 for four, and Lee on a hat-trick.
Two slips and a forward short-leg were now in position around the new man Umar Akmal. Lee steamed in for the last time in the over and bowled fast and straight. Akmal though defended resolutely. All this while Shafiq had been battling quietly, and the belligerent Umar Akmal was the ideal foil. Together they added another 41 invaluable runs. Shafiq and captain Shahid Afridi fell in quick succession, with the latter being caught by Lee at long-on. The experienced Abdul Razzaq walked in now. Razzaq had scored a fine 60 batting at no.3 in that last World Cup defeat of Australia in 1999. He batted calmly now, and in the end, hit two consecutive boundaries to end Australia’s glorious unbeaten run. Lee captured four for 28, but could not fight the tide of time. His team was a shadow of its former self and had to bow out. Lee had made one last valiant effort in his 8-over stint but received little support, really a tragic hero as the once-mighty Aussie ship went down.
Australia: 176 all out (46.4 overs), Pakistan: 178 for 6 wickets (41 overs) (CWC 2011)