The co-hosts, chasing Pakistan’s 213 all out, were stuttering on 59-3 in the 11th over but they were roared on inside a packed house of 47,000 at the Adelaide Oval to secure a six-wicket victory and set up a World Cup semi-final with India.
Steve Smith (65) and Shane Watson (64 not out) turned the match on its head with a fourth-wicket stand of 89 and Glenn Maxwell smashed an unbeaten 44 off 29 balls as Australia won in the 34th over.
But it had been a tense start for the Aussies with left-armer Wahab doing most of the damage – removing David Warner and Clarke in his first two overs – and Pakistan will be gutted with two dropped catches, both off Wahab’s bowling, costing them dearly.
Reflecting on the efforts of Wahab, who finished with figures of 2-54 from his nine overs, Clarke said: “That spell by Wahab was as good as any I have faced in one-day cricket for a long time.
“Left-armers are always tough to face for right-hand batsmen because the ball comes on to you. If that catch off Watson had been taken, who knows what would have happened. This game would have been closer for sure.
“Fast bowling definitely played a part in this game for both teams. If Watson’s catch had been taken maybe Pakistan’s 213 may have been enough. But credit must go to the way we found a way to see through that spell. There was a bit of luck but it also showed Watson’s experience.”
Australia’s eighth consecutive win over Pakistan on their own soil set up an enticing semi-final clash against defending champions India at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.
Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq admitted not scoring a century will remain a lifelong regret as the curtain fell on his 162-match, one-day international career following defeat in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Misbah, who fell for 34 in Pakistan’s below-par total of 213, said: “It was my wish (to score a one-day hundred) but it didn’t come about.??
“I put my whole effort into it but that didn’t come and it will be a disappointment but I enjoyed my career and I am satisfied.”
Misbah blamed a lacklustre effort at the crease for his team’s demise and also echoed Clarke’s sentiments regarding paceman Wahab.
The skipper added: “I think we failed as a batting unit in the whole tournament. We just lost the way in the middle overs, we were going well at one stage but after 22-23 overs we kept losing wickets and that was the trend throughout the World Cup.
“Wahab really bowled well throughout the World Cup and he was a different bowler. He showed his class again and at one stage we were pretty much in the game and the way he was bowling that catch could have made the difference. But that is how cricket is.
“If you keep on scoring low totals then it’s difficult for the bowlers to defend every day, especially on batting pitches like we were playing today.”