COLOMBO - Paceman Umar Gul claimed three victims as Pakistan beat Australia by four wickets on Saturday, ending the defending champions' unbeaten 34-match World Cup run and capturing top spot in Group A. Gul took 3-30 to help Pakistan dismiss Australia for 176 -- their lowest World Cup total since 1992 -- before Umar Akmal hit an unbeaten 44 to steer Pakistan to victory in 41 overs, finishing top of the pool with 10 points.
Pakistan, champions in 1992, will play the fourth placed team in Group B, while Australia (nine points) finished third behind Sri Lanka (nine points) on run-rate and will play the second placed team from Group B. Saturday's loss was Australia's first in the World Cup since losing to Pakistan by 10 runs in Leeds in 1999. But the champions, led by spearhead Brett Lee (4-28), fought hard and twice raised hopes of an unlikely win.
Pakistan were cruising along on 98-2 before Lee derailed the chase in his first over of his second spell, dismissing Younis Khan (31) and Misbah-ul-Haq for a first-ball duck -- both caught by keeper Brad Haddin. Mitchell Johnson removed Asad Shafiq (46) while Jason Krejza tempted skipper Shahid Afridi (two) to hole out in the deep, but Umar and Abdul Razzaq (20 not out) saw their team home with a cautious 36-run stand for the seventh wicket.
Razzaq hit two boundaries off spinner Jason Krejza to complete the victory. Lee had taken two wickets in his first spell, taking a smart catch off his own bowling to dismiss opener Mohammad Hafeez (five) before trapping Kamran Akmal lbw for 23. Shafiq, who hit five boundaries during his 81-ball knock, added 53 with Younis and 41 with Umar to keep Pakistan on track.
Earlier, Gul and Razzaq (2-8) exposed the untested Australian batting after Ricky Ponting won the toss and decided to bat on a seemingly flat R. Premadasa stadium pitch. Haddin (42), Michael Clarke (34) and Steve Smith (25) offered some resistance as Pakistan applied relentless pressure to take the last seven Australian wickets for a mere 59 runs after they were 117-3.
Pakistan, who opened the attack with left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman from one end, forced an early breakthrough when Gul bowled opener Shane Watson with a sharp incoming delivery for nine. Haddin added 63 for the second wicket with Ponting (19) before Pakistan struck twice, with Hafeez removing the Australian skipper off a miscued cut, caught by wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal.
Umpire Marais Erasmus of South Africa turned down a vociferous appeal before Pakistan successfully overturned the verdict on review to leave Australia 75-2. Left-arm paceman Wahab Riaz then had Haddin caught behind by Kamran in the 24th over. Haddin hit three boundaries and a six during his 80-ball knock.
Pakistan then took four crucial wickets in the space of just 30 runs to reduce the Australians to 147-7, including wickets of Clarke and Michael Hussey for 12. Gul removed Krejza and Lee cheaply to wrap the Australian innings for their sixth lowest World Cup total.