South Africa close in on quarter-finals
AUCKLAND: South Africa were targeting a World Cup quarter-final spot on Saturday after Pakistan suffered a trademark batting collapse following two rain-breaks in their Pool B match at Auckland.
Pakistan, in danger of missing out on the last eight, were bowled out for just 222 having been 92 for one and 156 for three.
The match was twice held up for rain at Eden Park and the second stoppage did little for Pakistan’s fragile confidence as they lost five wickets for the addition of just 25 runs.
Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq top scored with 56 off 86 balls — his fourth half-century in five matches at this World Cup and the 42nd of his career — as the 40-year-old went past 5,000 one-day international runs, although he still awaits a first century.
Shahid Afridi added a brisk 22, passing 8,000 ODI runs but Pakistan were left kicking themselves after squandering an impressive start which had seen Sarfraz Ahmed mark his first game of the tournament with 49 before he was run out and veteran Younis Khan hit 37.
Fast bowler Dale Steyn led a disciplined South Africa bowling performance with three for 30 and also held a brilliant, flying catch to get rid of Ahmed Shehzad.
Fellow seamer Kyle Abbott took two for 45 despite being expected to be dropped to accommodate a returning Vernon Philander.
Due to the rain breaks, South Africa were set a revised target of 232 under the Duckworth-Lewis method as they hunt a third win in four games and a guaranteed slot in the last eight.
India’s four-wicket win against the West Indies in Perth on Friday night kept the defending champions top of Pool B with eight points from four victories in four matches and assured them of one of the quarter-final places.
Also in Pool B, Ireland and Zimbabwe were facing-off in Hobart.
The Irish are just ahead of Zimbabwe in the standings with four points from three matches compared to the Africans’ two from four.
Zimbabwe will be without captain Elton Chigumbura after the 28-year-old all-rounder suffered a thigh injury when he tripped and fell while chasing a ball in Sunday’s 20-run loss to Pakistan in Brisbane.
The nature of that defeat was also something of a body-blow to Zimbabwe, whose only win at the tournament so far was a hard-fought success over the part-timers from the UAE.
Zimbabwe held Pakistan to a modest 235 for seven but, despite several batsmen getting starts, they came up short in their chase.
The Irish too will go into the match on the back of a defeat, a 201-run thrashing by South Africa. It was Ireland’s first loss after wins over the West Indies and the UAE.
But given South Africa made 408 for five against the West Indies in their preceding match, the defeat may be easier for Ireland to brush aside as ‘one of those things’ than Zimbabwe’s loss to Pakistan will be for the Africans.
Meanwhile, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said Saturday that the defending champions’ impressive start was forged in the disappointments of recent visits to Australia and New Zealand.
India didn’t win a single match against Australia in the run-up to the World Cup and then failed to reach the final of the triangular one-day series against the home nation and England.
That followed a winless tour of New Zealand 12 months earlier.
“They learnt a lot from the tri-series, and also from the away tours,” Dhoni said.
“We didn’t win a single game in New Zealand, but still what I felt was the players were learning what really needs to be done, and it’s all a reflection of all of that.
“At times people get too busy about, no, we have to win, we have to win, but what’s more important is the bowlers or the batsmen, they have to learn what to do so that they can consistently win outside (India).” AFP