Zimbabwe ousted as Pakistan advance
Pakistan booked their place in the World Cup quarter-finals and condemned Zimbabwe to an early exit as they triumphed by seven wickets in a rain-interrupted match in Pallekele.
Asad Shafiq’s composed unbeaten 78 saw Pakistan to their revised Duckworth-Lewis target of 162 from 38 overs with 23 balls to spare.
Zimbabwe had earlier been restricted to 151 for seven in an innings twice disrupted by showers, thanks largely to Craig Ervine’s 52 and an unbeaten 32 from Elton Chigumbura.
Umar Gul finished with 3-36 for Pakistan in a match initially reduced to 43 overs a side following the first rain delay.
When the heavens opened again in the 40th over of Zimbabwe’s innings, Pakistan’s reply was reduced by a further five overs, but the modest target proved well within their reach.
Pakistan move up to second in the Group A table as a result and join New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Australia in securing qualification for the last eight with at least a game to spare.
Skipper Shahid Afridi hailed the contribution of Shafiq, who was called up in the absence of the injured Umar Akmal.
“Asad played an amazing innings,” said Afridi. “We gave him a chance and he made use of it.”
Zimbabwe captain Chigumbura, meanwhile, blamed his side’s dismal start with the bat for their defeat, explaining: "We lost too many wickets first up and it’s always hard to come back from that. Then the rain came and we didn't have enough momentum in the end."
Zimbabwe’s decision to bat first in overcast conditions appeared a strange one and they lost opener Brendan Taylor in the first over as he drove loosely at Abdul Razzaq and edged to wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal.
Gul trapped Regis Chakabva lbw in the next over and when Misbah-ul-Haq took a fine catch at slip off the same bowler to remove Vusi Sibanda, Zimbabwe were reeling on 13 for three.
Ervine dug in thereafter to ensure his team avoided humiliation, although he was fortunate to see Misbah spill a simple chance off Razzaq when he had only 13 to his name.
Zimbabwe had battled to 96 for five, with Taibu and Greg Lamb having departed to Wahab Riaz and Afridi respectively, by the time rain forced a stoppage in the 28th over.
Ervine fell shortly after the resumption as he misjudged a cut off Mohammad Hafeez and was bowled, but Chigumbura and Utseya provided some useful lower-order runs before the rain returned.
The impressive Gul claimed a third wicket with what proved to be the final ball of the innings as Utseya skied an attempted pull towards backward square leg, where Kamran was on hand to complete the dismissal.
Ahmed Shehzad once again fell cheaply as he charged down the wicket to Ray Price in the fourth over of his side’s reply and failed to connect with an attempted slog, leaving Taibu with the easiest of stumpings.
However, a required run-rate of just over four an over never appeared likely to trouble Pakistan and they were aided by a wayward opening spell from seamer Shingirai Masakadza, who struggled to maintain a consistent line and length.
Following Masakadza’s withdrawal from the attack, Shafiq and Hafeez were content to milk Zimbabwe’s battery of spinners and took few risks in a partnership of 82 for the second wicket.
Hafeez fell one run short of a half-century as he edged Utseya to slip and Afridi did little to justify his promotion to number four as he missed a straight ball from Price early in his innings.
Shafiq remained solid, however, and there were few alarms as he and Younus Khan knocked off the remaining runs with the minimum of fuss.