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Wahab, Irfan come of age as Pakistan bounce back

Brisbane - March 1, 2015: Wahab Riaz showed why he is tipped to become a top all-rounder when he smashed his maiden one-day half-century before taking four key wickets while Mohammad Irfan, widely regarded as 'trump card' for Pakistan took four to help Pakistan out smart Zimbabwe by 20 runs in their must-win World Cup Pool B match on Sunday.

Wahab's 46-ball 54 helped Pakistan build on a fighting 121-ball 73 as they managed to put a fighting 235-7 run total after Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat on a slow, double-paced pitch at Gabba.

Pakistan were struggling to reach a defendable target after openers Nasir Jamshed (one) and Ahmed Shehzad (nought) departed by the fourth over and then again at 162-6 in the 40th over but Wahab's brilliant counter-attack saw the team score 73 in the last ten overs.

Then at 128-3 and then 150-4- Zimbabwe were on their way to inflicting another defeat on Pakistan but Irfan (4-30) and Riaz (4-45) helped Pakistan stage a fightback and completed the bounce back they promised before the match.

The win gives Pakistan the resolve to reach the next round as well as two valuable points. 

Once a defendable total was on the board Pakistan players body language changed.

Irfan removed Sikander Raza and Chamu Chibhabha in his first spell of five overs but Zimbabwe still tried to put the fight to the Pakistani bowlers.

Hamilton Masakadza (29) and Brendon Taylor (50) put on 54 for the third wicket and it was a stroke of genius by Misbah and foolishness by Masakadza that earned Pakistan another key wicket.

Misbah brought Irfan back for a short burst and Masakadza tried to smack a short delivery out of the ground but only to hole out at mid-off where a desperate Misbah lunged onto a skier. That catch showed Pakistan's desperation to win and a relieved Misbah posed a big smile.

Sean Williams and Taylor didn't let their spirits down as they took the total to 128. Taylor was particularly threatening and never allowed leg-spinner Shahid Afridi to settle. He smashed inside out shots and lofted drives to outshine Afridi before another stroke of luck helped Pakistan to dislodge him.

Wahab bowled one on the middle stump and it cut towards Taylor's leg stump and a faint edge safely landed in Umar Akmal's hands who also had a good day behind the stumps taking five catches.

But Ervine batted smartly for his 35 before he too suffered bad luck. It seemed Sunday was Pakistan's day. Ervine cut a wide Rahat Ali delivery to point where a baffled Shehzad didn't; know how it glued to his hands for a superb catch.

Pakistan needed wickets and the decision to play four seamers paid off.

A relieved Misbah said he can't express how happy he and his team were.

"I think the team fought really well, especially credit goes to the bowlers. They just kept the pressure, just kept taking wickets. That's the key in this World Cup," said Misbah in his post match comments. 

"Even if you are just defending a low total, if you have the bowlers who can take wickets and defend totals, you can really just penetrate, and that's what especially the fast bowlers did today. Irfan really started well, and right from the start they just put them under pressure, and then the kind of spell Wahab bowled, I think that was the key. All other bowlers, especially Sohail Khan and Rahat, they really bowled well. And then Shahid Afridi, the four last overs were very crucial, especially the 47th maiden, that was the key. I think credit should be given to the team, especially the bowlers, and the way we just defended the total out there."

When Pakistan batted they were also pushed back by Zimbabwe pacers, Tendai Chatara and Tinasha Panyangara as the duo bowled to a perfect line and length. After being 2-4, Misbah and Haris Sohail (27) put on 54 for the third wicket but the going was painstakingly slow.

"When I went to bat we were under pressure and the ball was not coming onto the bat so we had to labour for runs," said Misbah.

Misbah's half-century came off 91 balls. He also found an able ally in Umar Akmal whose rapid 42-ball 33 lifted the tempo but left-arm spinner Williams derailed Pakistan's progress by dismissing Umar and Shahid Afridi in the space of three deliveries.

Sohaib Maqsood also looked in great touch during his 17-ball 21 but mistimed a drive and was caught and bowled by Mupariwa.

It was through Wahab and Misbah's seventh wicket stand of 47 that Pakistan managed to cross the 200-mark.

Wahab still produced 33 more runs in the final four overs to give Pakistan some chance of a fight.

Misbah praised Wahab.

"I think Wahab was really bowling well, quick, but you could say on conditions like when you are playing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it could not suit him much, but whenever you just talk about the pitches in New Zealand and Australia where there is more bounce, it could be really deceptive, and that's what he's doing.

"Everybody knows that he's capable of doing some batting, also, and I think today he showed that. Almost he single-handedly just saved the whole team. His innings was very important, and then the kind of bowling he did, especially he bowled really quick, and some intelligent bowling, good bouncers, and also he just mixed the length very well. At the moment you could say he's really doing well for our team."