Pakistan overcame a potentially disastrous start to its third Cricket World Cup match of 2015, to hold off a spirited chase by Zimbabwe and record their first win of the tournament, thanks to dominant fast bowling by 7′ 1″ Mohammad Irfan — the world’s tallest cricketer — and Wahab Riaz, who also turned in unbeaten 54 in his innings Sunday at The Gabba in Brisbane, Australia.
In the end, it took Paksitan all 50 overs to dismiss the Africans all out and hold on for a 20-run margin of victory, after tallying 235-7 — their highest tally of this years’s Cricket World Cup — to the Zimbabweans’ 215.
After opening the tournament falling to arch-rival India by 76 runs, then following that debacle with a 150 run thrashing at the hands of the West Indies squad, the Pakistanis appeared to be continuing right on form when openers Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shahzad were both quickly dismissed leaving Pakistan at a seemingly helpless 4-2.
After the first 10 overs, Pakistan stood at a troubling 14-2, but it wasn’t until the partnership of Pakistan Captain Misbah-ul-Haq put up 73 and Riaz recorded 54 not out from 46 balls that Pakistan pushed past the 200 mark.
Aiming for the seemingly attainable 236 to win, the best the Zimbabweans could do was a half century from Brian Taylor as Irfan and Riaz claimed four wickets each on their way to frustrating the African side, leaving them in fifth place in Pool B with just two points, equal to Pakistan who still have a game in hand.
Irfan alone took the first three Zimbabwe wickets, including dismissals of opening batsmen Chamu Chibhabha and Sikandar Raza within his first seven overs.
The seven-foot left-arm bowler later sent Zimbabwe’s leading scorer Hamilton Masakadza out after just 29 from 54 balls.
Pakistan next sees action Wednesday, March 4, when they face the winless United Arab Emirates — a golden opportunity to position themselves for what previously appeared to be unlikely qualification for the quarterfinals with two matches remaining in group play after that.
As for Zimbabwe, they have until Saturday, March 7, to pull themselves together and figure out how to increase their run total, which will be a necessity when they face Ireland who have won both of their matches so far.
The win provides some relief for the Pakistani side, who were being savaged in the press back in their home country after their opening two defeats in the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
[Image: Chris Hyde/Getty Images]