Pakistan win as Irfan bounces Zimbabwe out
Mohammad Irfan extracted steep bounce from the Gabba pitch to pick up four wickets as Pakistan secured their first victory at the World Cup by beating Zimbabwe by 20 runs in their Pool B match on Sunday.
Wahab Riaz also excelled with both bat and ball, scoring a crucial half-century and taking four wickets, as Zimbabwe were all out for 215 in the 50th over, chasing Pakistan's 235-7.
It was Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq's patient 73 and a quickfire unbeaten 54 from Riaz that gave the team, looking for their first win after defeats to India and West Indies, a total to defend after losing early wickets to paceman Tendai Chatara.
Zimbabwe openers Chamu Chibhabha (nine) and Sikandar Raza (eight) also found the going tough as both failed to manage rising balls from Irfan, who stands a lofty 2.16 metres (7-foot-1-inch) tall.
The left-armer returned in his later spells to also dismiss Hamilton Masakadza (29) and Solomon Mire (eight) to bag his best figures of 4-30 in ODI cricket.
Brendan Taylor (50) gave the Africans a good platform for the chase with a 52-run stand for the third wicket with Masakadza and then a 54-run partnership with Sean Williams (33) but his dismissal off Riaz brought Pakistan back in the game.
Riaz (4-45) then picked up Craig Ervine (14) and Tawanda Mupariwa (zero) in the space of three deliveries in his eighth over to put the chase beyond Zimbabwe's reach.
Earlier, Chatara (3-35) got ample movement and bounce off the surface to send back openers Nasir Jamshed (1) and Ahmed Shehzad (0) in his first two overs after Misbah had won the toss and opted to bat.
The double blow forced Pakistan to retreat into a defensive shell, amassing the lowest tally in the first 10 overs at this World Cup when they reached 14-2 after the opening 60 balls.
Pakistan were never able to break free at any time in their innings and as is often the case, Misbah was left with the responsibility of rebuilding Pakistan's innings.
The 40-year-old right-hander added a pedestrian 54 for the third wicket with Haris Sohail (27) and 69 for the fourth with Umar Akmal (33) before Williams struck another double-blow to peg Pakistan back.
The left-arm spinner got deliveries to straighten and clean bowled Akmal and birthday boy Shahid Afridi for a duck in the space of three balls.
Misbah holed out at long on trying to clear Chatara out of the ground after another meaningful stand of 47 with Wahab Riaz (54 not out) for the seventh wicket.
The partnership took Pakistan past the 200 mark and some clean hitting from Riaz, who belted six fours and a six in his 46-ball knock for his first 50 in the format, added some vital runs at the death.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq summoned up the spirit of Imran Khan and his 1992 World Cup warriors on Saturday as the strife-hit Asian giants look to salvage their 2015 campaign.
Pakistan, engulfed by a series of on and off-field controversies, have lost both of their opening two games - by 76 runs to India and 150 runs against the West Indies.
They are bottom of Pool B and defeat by Zimbabwe at the Gabba on Sunday will virtually condemn them to an early exit.
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But Pakistan have been down this road before.
Twenty-three years ago, when the World Cup was last played in Australia and New Zealand, Imran Khan's team were also staring at early elimination.
They lost by 10 wickets to West Indies, beat Zimbabwe, had a no-result when about to be defeated by England before two more losses to India and South Africa.
They then went on a roll, seeing off Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand to make the semi-finals.
New Zealand were defeated again in the last-four before the title was clinched in Melbourne courtesy of a 22-run win against England.
"The important lesson is never give up," said Misbah.
"That's what you need to do as a player and as a team. That's what Imran Khan usually says about 1992. Even when the team was in difficult times, they never gave up.
"They just kept trying, kept trying, and kept trying. At last they just managed to do what they really wanted to do in that World Cup.
"So, that's what we are trying to do. We just have to do the things and we have to work hard, and that's what we're trying to do."
Misbah insists that his team are trying to forget their two defeats as well as off-field diversions which have seen eight players fined for breaking a curfew, reports of a bust-up in training and chief selector Moin Khan being sent home in disgrace for visiting a casino.
"It's always like that," said Misbah, when asked to reflect on the deluge of criticism his team has endured for their woeful form.
"They always say that they are with the team all the time, but never do it. You could say it's always like that in Pakistan. We are always with the winning team, but when our team is in difficult times, we're here (on their own.)"
Misbah added that Pakistan's slow start could be partly attributed to the damage caused by the late withdrawals of three key men - spinner Saeed Ajmal, veteran batsman Mohammad Hafeez and seamer Junaid Khan.
As a result, Pakistan's tactics and strategy had to be tweaked.
"We are playing with a different set-up. We were relying on spin and different bowlers, especially Junaid Khan. He was a main bowler for us," said Misbah.
Squads and oficials:
Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Ahmed Shahzad, Ehsan Adil, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Irfan, Nasir Jamshed, Rahat Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Khan, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Younis Khan.
Zimbabwe (from): Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Solomon Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Tinashe Panyangara, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams
Umpires: Richard Kettleborough (ENG), Joel Wilson (WIS)
TV umpire: Paul Reiffel (AUS)
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (NZL)
Weather forecast: Sunny. Maximum temperature 29 degrees
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