Mohali, March 25 (IANS) Australia kept themselves in contention for a place in the World Twenty20 semi-finals with a 21-run win over Pakistan at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium here on Friday.
Pakistan, who ended their engagements in Group 2 with three defeats in four matches, were thus knocked out of the tournament.
Australia are now on two wins from their three matches — the same as India — but are ahead of the hosts on net run rate.
India and Australia will meet in the last match of the group on March 27 and the winner will advance to the semi-finals.
Chasing a difficult 194-run target, Pakistan were never really in the race as the Australian bowlers kept them on a tight leash throughout.
They rode on some excellent batting from Khalid Latif, Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal to sign off at 172/8 in their 20 overs.
Fast bowler James Faulkner was the most successful among the Australian bowlers with figures of 5/27 in his four overs.
Left-arm spinner Adam Zampa returned figures of 2/32 while pacer Josh Hazlewood (1/26) also bagged a wicket.
Khalid Latif played a patient knock for Pakistan, scoring 46 runs off 41 deliveries with four boundaries and a six.
He received good support from Umar Akmal at the other end and the duo came up with a 45-run partnership to offer a glimmer of hope to Pakistan.
Akmal played a quickfire knock of 32 runs, studding his 20-ball stay in the middle with three hits to the fence and a six.
Shahid Afridi played a typically carefree innings of 14 runs off seven deliveries. The Pakistan captain smashed two massive sixes and was stumped while attempting another big shot off Zampa.
The in-form Shoaib Malik came up with a late fightback. He remained unbeaten on 40 runs, hitting two boundaries and an equal number of sixes in his 20-ball innings.
But Malik did not get the required support from the other end after Latif’s dismissal as Pakistan made their way out of the tournament.
Earlier, Australia justified their decision to bat first on winning the toss by posting a daunting total of 193/4. Steven Smith played a captain’s knock, remaining unbeaten on 61 runs off 43 balls, smashing seven boundaries along the way.
Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell played a couple of exciting, quickfire knocks later on to help Australia reach a big total.
Watson remained unbeaten after plundering 44 runs off 21 balls with four boundaries and three sixes. Maxwell smashed 30 runs off 18 deliveries with three fours and a six.
Fast bowler Wahab Riaz (2/35) and left-arm spinner Imad Wasim (2/31) claimed a couple of wickets each for Pakistan.
Openers Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja saw Australia off to a steady start. Khawaja was in good touch, scoring 21 runs off 16 balls with three boundaries and a six before being bowled by Riaz.
Riaz bowled the dangerous David Warner in his very next over with a slightly short-pitched delivery that moved in sharply after pitching.
Imad Wasim sent back Finch soon after, but Smith and Glenn Maxwell added 62 runs between them to set Australia up for a competitive total.
Watson then played a superb knock lower down the order and added 74-runs along with Smith to give Australia a strong finish.
Brief scores: Australia 193/4 (Steven Smith 61 n.o., Shane Watson 44 n.o.; Imad Wasim 2/31, Wahab Riaz 2/35) vs Pakistan 172/8 (Khalid Latif 46, Shoaib Malik 40 n.o.; James Faulkner 5/27)