Pakistan back in Cup contention with win over South Africa
The Pakistan squad of 2015 is showing the kind of resilience that Imran Khan's lineup of 1992 needed to win the World Cup title.
This time the comeback is on Misbah-ul-Haq's watch, the veteran batsman holding firm again as Pakistan beat South Africa on Saturday by 29 runs in Auckland, New Zealand under the Duckworth-Lewis system for rain-affected games.
In the other match Saturday, Ireland stayed in the hunt for a quarterfinal place and all but ended Zimbabwe's chances for the final eight with a five-run win at Hobart, Tasmania. After posting 331-8 which featured an Ed Joyce century and 97 runs from Andy Balbirnie, Ireland endured a nervous defense of its total as Zimbabwe also passed 300. Brendan Taylor scored an impressive 121 from 91 balls while Sean Williams added 96 before Alex Cusack took two of his four wickets in the last over to clinch victory for the Irish.
The win moved Ireland into fourth place in Pool B, level on six points each with South Africa and Pakistan but behind on net run rate.
''They held their nerve for longer periods and the team that panics first generally falls short, full credit to Ireland,'' Taylor said. ''They're a hungry side and they're a very passionate team so there's no reason why they can't prove to the world that they're a force to be reckoned with.''
Pakistan wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed won man-of-the-match honors after scoring a run-a-ball 49 and then equaled the world record for a one-day match by taking six catches in the win over South Africa.
Pakistan lost its first two matches by big margins, but has now won three in a row heading into its last group match against Ireland. In `92, the last time the World Cup was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, Pakistan rallied from a series of losses and a lucky wash-out in the group stage to win the title against expectations.
After losing the toss and being sent in to bat in Auckland, Pakistan scored just 222 in its rain-shortened innings with Misbah scoring a half century, and seemed to be headed for defeat against a South Africa lineup that had posted 400-plus totals in its two previous wins.
The South Africans - needing 232 to win under revised target from 47 overs - raced to 67-1 after nine overs but then collapsed, losing five wickets for 35 runs.
A.B. de Villiers stroked 77 off 58 balls in a rearguard innings, but it wasn't quite enough as the team was all out for 202.
Sarfraz was only brought into the starting 11 in Saturday's game as a replacement for struggling opener Nasir Jamshed. In its previous matches, Pakistan had relied on makeshift keeper Umar Akmal, who had dropped a number of catches but whose batting skills were considered vital.
On Sunday, both co-hosts play, and one can help the other out. If New Zealand beats Afghanistan at Napier and Australia defeats Sri Lanka at Sydney, the Kiwis will clinch first place in Pool A. The New Zealanders have already secured a spot in the quarterfinals after four consecutive wins.
Veteran New Zealand spinner Daniel Vettori is poised to reach 300 ODI wickets. Vettori, who is playing at his fifth World Cup, needs two more wickets to become the first New Zealander to reach the milestone.
For the fourth time in succession, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum opened a pre-match news conference with the same two words: ''same team.''
Sri Lanka goes into its match against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground with three straight wins since losing to New Zealand in the tournament opener, including a nine-wicket win over England when it chased down 310 with three overs to spare. The 37-year-old Kumar Sangakkara posted his second century in as many matches in that win, and shared a big partnership with Lahiru Thirimanne.
Australia captain Michael Clarke says Sangakkara could be considered among the best batsmen ever.
''He's certainly as good as any player I've played against,'' Clarke said. ''He's a wonderful batsman - his statistics show that in both test and one-day cricket.''