Pakistan into quarters with win over Zimbabwe

PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka: Pakistan qualified for the World Cup quarterfinals with a seven-wicket win over Zimbabwe on Monday after chasing down a revised target with almost four overs to spare in a rain-marred Group A match.

Zimbabwe’s innings was twice stopped by rain, and the African team finished at 151-7 in 39.4 overs at the second interruption.

Fast bowler Umar Gul (3-36) exploited the overcast conditions and only Craig Ervine played a fighting knock of 52.

Pakistan made 164-3 in 34.1 overs after its target was revised to 162 in 38 overs. Middle-order batsman Asad Shafiq made an impressive World Cup debut, scoring 78 off 97 balls.

Pakistan has eight points and will meet Australia in its last league match to determine finishing places in the group.

Since losing the 1999 final to Australia, Pakistan had twice failed to go beyond the first round at the World Cup.

So the win over Zimbabwe had extra meaning for the Pakistan team.

Shafiq replaced injured Umar Akmal and featured in two productive half-century stands, adding 82 runs with Mohammad Hafeez (49) and a further 54 runs with former captain Younis Khan (13).

Earlier, Ervine top-scored with 52 from 82 balls but Zimbabwe’s innings never gained momentum after it slumped to 43-4 in the 13th over.

Pakistan’s seamers made the most of overcast conditions after Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura took a surprise decision to bat first when he won the toss on his 25th birthday.

Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, heavily criticized for missing two chances in the 110-run loss to New Zealand last week, made sure he did not miss Brendan Taylor’s edge in the very first over off Abdul Razzaq, then Gul trapped Regis Chakabva to make it 5-2.

Zimbabwe was playing for pride, having already fallen out of contention with three losses and just one win.

Vusi Sibanda was one of the two changes made by Zimbabwe in order to beef up its brittle batting lineup. But the right-handed Sibanda — playing in his first game of the tournament — scored only five before Gul found a thick edge which flew to Misbah-ul-Haq at first slip.

Zimbabwe had a reprieve at 41-3 in the 12th over when Misbah couldn’t hold onto Ervine’s edge into the slips off Razzaq when the batsman had scored 13.

But it made little difference as left-arm paceman Wahab Riaz struck from the other end to dismiss Tatenda Taibu.

Zimbabwe struggled to 96-5 in the 28th over when rain stopped play for the first time.

Offspinner Mohammad Hafeez bowled Ervine in the second over when play resumed after 100 minutes.

Chigumbura (32) and Prosper Utseya (18) got established before taking the batting powerplay.

They combined for the best partnership of the innings by adding 48 runs off 62 balls before Utseya top-edged a ball from Gul to Akmal just before rain forced the players from the field for a second time.

After Pakistan’s target was revised, opening batsman Ahmed Shezad’s poor form continued with yet another low score of 8 when Ray Price had him stumped in the fourth over.

Hafeez was shaping up well for his first half century in five World Cup matches before he edged offspinner Prosper Utseya to Price.

Price struck again to bowl Shahid Afridi when the Pakistan skipper was chasing quick runs.

Shafiq remained composed, hitting seven boundaries and making sure Pakistan successfully chased a target at a World Cup for the first time since beating New Zealand by nine wickets in the 1999 semifinals.

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