Shafiq guides Pakistan’s chase

Umar Akmal’s injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Asad Shafiq who got a place in the playing-eleven and did not miss the chance to shine with an unbeaten half-century on his World Cup debut.

PALLEKELE, KANDY:  Asad Shafiq enjoyed a memorable World Cup debut as he stroked an unbeaten 78 to help Pakistan seal their place in the quarter-finals with a seven-wicket win over Zimbabwe in a rain-shortened match.

Chasing a Duckworth/Lewis target of 162 off 38 overs, Shafiq’s mature innings and a solid knock by Mohammad Hafeez (49) steered Pakistan to an easy win with 23 balls to spare. They finished on 164 for three.

Pakistan were never under pressure as they went about their job in a composed manner with Shafiq anchoring the innings.

‘He played an amazing innings’

Captain Shahid Afridi was clearly impressed by Shafiq’s responsible knock. “He played an amazing innings. We gave him a chance and he availed himself of it,” said Afridi.

Afridi was keen to finish at the top of the table to avoid a more tricky assignment in the quarter-finals. A win over defending champions Australia in their last group match will go a long way in helping that ambition.

“We will definitely play well against Australia. It’s a match which we’ll take very seriously,” said Afridi, whose side are a point better off than the defending champions but who have played a game more.

The result meant the 1992 champions joined Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka from Group A in the knock out stages of the competition.

Zimbabwe falter in rain-affected innings

Earlier, pace duo of Umar Gul and Abdul Razzaq rattled the Zimbabweans by reducing them to 13 for three inside six overs after which they struggled to recover before rain intervened to halt their innings.

The minnows were able to muster only 151 for seven after 39.4 overs but the victory target was adjusted according to the projected score the Africans would have reached had they been able to bat out their full quota of overs. With the exception of Craig Ervine, who top-scored with 52 and captain Elton Chigumbura who remained unbeaten on 32, the Zimbabwe batsmen struggled to come to terms with the stop-start nature of the contest due to three rain delays.

Following a delayed start, the cricketers first had to run for cover with Zimbabwe on 96 for five after 27.2 overs. With 90 minutes of action lost, the match was first truncated to 43 overs a side before another deluge forced yet another adjustment. Ervine hit five fours during his stay at the crease, while Chigumbura’s hopes of celebrating his 25th birthday with a big score was scuppered by the rain gods. Gul, named man of the match, was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers with three for 36.

The Zimbabwe captain was left ruing his side’s dismal show with the bat.

“We lost too many wickets first up and from there it is always hard to come back into the game and also it rained so we did not have that momentum towards the end that we wanted,” admitted Chigumbura.

This was the second World Cup match to be affected by rain after Sri Lanka’s showdown with Australia was washed out in Colombo.