AUCKLAND: Pakistan clinched a thrilling 29-run win over South Africa to stay on course for the World Cup quarter-finals, while Ireland also eyed the last-eight with a nail-biting five-run victory over Zimbabwe.
Chasing just 232 to win under the Duckworth-Lewis method at Eden Park in Auckland, South Africa, who would have been assured of a quarter-final slot had they won, were bowled out for 202 despite captain AB de Villiers’ valiant 77.
Rahat Ali grabbed a career-best three for 40, with fellow left-arm seamers Mohammad Irfan (three for 52) and Wahab Riaz (three for 45) as South Africa were dismissed in 33.3 overs in a game which ended in a torrential downpour.
The result left South Africa and Pakistan both on six points and well-placed for the quarter-finals.
Ireland are in fourth but also have six points and a game in hand on the two Test-playing nations.
They are also two points ahead of the West Indies, leaving the four sides to fight over the three remaining spots in the last eight in a Pool B from which defending champions India have already qualified.
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis saw parallels with the team of 1992 who won the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand despite losing three of their opening five games with just one win and a no-result.
“(Captain) Imran Khan had the serious belief, and I’m sure and I hope that belief is coming into our dressing room that we can deliver,” said Waqar.
A disappointed de Villiers insisted South Africa had failed to engage top gear.
“It’s my responsibility to try to get the guys going, which I couldn’t, so maybe I should take responsibility for that,” he said.
“It was almost like a car that’s stuck in second or third gear, and that’s not going to win you cricket games.”
The match was twice held up for rain 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.
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.
Sarfraz later claimed a record-equalling six catches behind the stumps.
Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis comfortably put on 67 for the second wicket before Pakistan sensationally lived up to South Africa coach Russell Domingo’s pre-match assessment of their “predictable unpredictability”.
South Africa conclude their pool programme against the UAE in Wellington on Thursday, while Pakistan face Ireland in Adelaide next Sunday, the same day that the West Indies play the UAE in Napier.
In Hobart, Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor insisted his team had suffered a miscarriage of justice when Ireland fielder John Mooney held a crucial catch despite indications he had touched the boundary with his foot.
Ireland won by five runs after setting Zimbabwe a huge 332-run total to chase and stay in the tournament.
With Zimbabwe needing 32 to win off 20 balls, and with four wickets left, Sean Williams, on 96, launched a huge hook off Kevin O’Brien towards deep midwicket where Mooney reached high to grab the ball.
But as he claimed the catch, the big Irishman appeared to touch the boundary cushion with his foot, which should have resulted in a six.
As the decision was examined, Williams left the Bellerive Oval pitch and the catch stood.
“They zoomed in, and I thought it was pretty clear. But you’ve got to take the fielder’s word,” said Taylor who hit a blistering 121 with 11 fours and four sixes.
Ireland captain William Porterfield tried to downplay the controversy.
“It’s very hard to tell when you’re on the line. Whether or not he did or didn’t, it was a great catch,” he said.
Earlier, Ireland veteran Ed Joyce made 112 while Andy Balbirnie hit 97. (AFP)