March 03, 2015

Four-time champion Australia and 1992 winner Pakistan demonstrated the gulf between the cricket elite and the second tier with lopsided wins at the World Cup on Wednesday.

Australia, led by opener David Warner's 178 runs, scored a World Cup-record total of 417 for six after being sent in to bat by Afghanistan at Perth, Australia. The Australians then bowled out Afghanistan for 142 runs in 37.3 overs for a 275-run win - the biggest ever at a World Cup.

The Australian run total eclipsed the 413-5 posted by India against lowly-ranked Bermuda at the 2007 World Cup. And the margin of victory surpassed the previous World Cup high of 257 - set by India against Bermuda in 2007 and equaled by South Africa against West Indies last week in Sydney.

After incurring big losses to archrival India and the West Indies, Pakistan has recovered with victories over Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates to level its win-loss record at 2-2. The 129-run win Wednesday over UAE came at Napier, New Zealand, where Pakistan scored 339-6 - the first time it has topped 300 runs at the tournament - before restricting the UAE to 210-8.

Just how much improvement has been made will be tested in Pakistan's two remaining matches, though, against South Africa on Saturday in Auckland, and against Ireland in Adelaide on March 15. Pakistan's chances of reaching the quarterfinals will rest on a win in at least one of those games, and it might have to win both depending on other results.

Opener Ahmed Shehzad top-scored with 93 before being run out seven runs short of Pakistan's first cup century in eight years, while Shaiman Anwar led the UAE with 62.

''Everyone contributed, and we pushed hard,'' man-of-the-match Shehzad said. ''Very happy to see some momentum before our next big game against South Africa.''

There was never much doubt about the result in Perth. After the early loss of Aaron Finch (4), Warner and Steve Smith (95) added 260 for the second wicket and then Glenn Maxwell clobbered 88 from 39 balls. Mitch Johnson took four wickets for 22 runs, while Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood took two wickets apiece.

''It was good to get out and play on a fantastic wicket,'' said man-of-the-match Warner. ''We got the job done, a massive game for us.''

With the lopsided victories and a marked enhancement of their net run rates, Australia moved into third place in Pool A while Pakistan sits in fourth spot in Pool B, an improvement of two places. The first four teams in each pool qualify for the quarterfinals beginning March 18.

On Thursday in Nelson, New Zealand, Scotland will have another chance to win its first ever cup match and escape last place in Pool A.

Its opponent Bangladesh, however, is vying for a quarterfinal place. With one win to its credit - a 105-run victory over Afghanistan - and shared points with Australia from a washed-out match in Brisbane, fourth-place Bangladesh could take a major step toward the last eight with a win.

Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza said his squad ''expects to win'' against Scotland and, while a loss to Sri Lanka was a setback, it remained confident of reaching the quarterfinals. Bangladesh has tough matches remaining against England and South Africa.

''We have a great chance to go through to the quarterfinals,'' Mortaza said. ''If we can play better cricket here, hopefully the confidence we can take into the England match.''

Elsewhere, Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura was injured and won't play against Ireland at Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Saturday. Chigumbura tore a left quadriceps muscle while fielding in a 20-run loss to Pakistan last weekend.

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