01 March 2015
Wahab, Irfan give Pakistan first points
Bowlers provide crucial breakthroughs in defence of 235 as Zimbabwe falls 20 runs short
Pakistan got its first points in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 with a 20-run victory against Zimbabwe at the Gabba.
For long periods with ball and bat, Zimbabwe had controlled the game, but a combination of faulty shot selection and exceptional bowling in the Batting Power Play from Wahab and Irfan tilted the game decisively in Pakistan’s favour.
Defending just 235, new-ball wickets were imperative, and Irfan duly provided them on a fast and bouncy pitch perfectly suited to his methods. The steepling bounce he got accounted for both Chamu Chibhabha and Sikandar Raza, one unable to get his bat out of the way and the other unable to control a cut. Haris Sohail took both chances with nonchalant ease at second slip, leaving Zimbabwe 22 for 2 in the seventh over.
Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza dragged Zimbabwe back into the contest with a 52-run stand. Taylor played some lovely drives and an astonishing ramp shot over the ‘keeper off Wahab, while Masakadza muscled the ball around. Needing wickets, Misbah once again turned to Irfan.
It took him just two balls to strike, as Masakadza miscued a loft to mid-off, where Misbah watched a steepler all the way down into his hands. Sean Williams started fluently, with two fours in an Irfan over, but was also given a reprieve when an attempted cut off Afridi was put down behind the stumps with the batsman on 11.
At the halfway mark, Zimbabwe was well placed at 105 for 3, and Taylor duly eased to his half-century in 69 balls. But once again, a good partnership (54 off 49 balls) didn’t become a game-changing one. Taylor was the culprit this time, tickling one down the legside to give Wahab his first wicket.
Williams fell after that to put Pakistan firmly on top. Rahat had just been reintroduced when he cut one too close to his body. Ahmed Shehzad held the chance over his head at backward point to send Williams on his way for 33 from 32 balls.
Then came the Power Play. Irfan had Solomon Mire edging behind, before Wahab induced a wild slash from Ervine and a thin edge from Tawanda Mupariwa. On each occasion, Akmal held on. From 150 for 4, Zimbabwe had slumped to 168 for 8.
Elton Chigumbura, batting despite having hurt his quadriceps while fielding, kept Pakistan waiting with a gritty innings, supported by Tinashe Panyangara. The two added 47 from 59 balls, with Chigumbura striking four fours, but Wahab (4 for 45) and Irfan simply had too much pace and nous as the game reached its expected denouement, Zimbabwe all out for 215 in 49.4 overs.
There was little hint of the drama to come when Pakistan was put on the back foot in the first 15 overs, with just three fours hit and 33 made for the loss of two wickets. Nasir Jamshed, whose World Cup began with a duck against West Indies, made 1 this time before miscuing Tendai Chatara to square leg. Shehzad, the other opener, left without scoring, undone by a lovely Chatara delivery that moved away a touch.
Misbah and Haris Sohail rebuilt, but progress was slow as the Zimbabwe bowlers operated with tremendous discipline. It took them 92 balls to bring up the half-century partnership, but Sohail was unable to kick on. His dismissal for 27 (44 balls) – whacking a long-hop from Raza to short midwicket – summed up the early batting.
Chigumbura caught his foot in the turf while chasing a ball to the rope and had to be helped off after he fell awkwardly on his knee, and with Taylor now directing proceedings, Pakistan had eked out just 77 for 3 from the first 25 overs.
The acceleration came mostly from Akmal, who struck a couple of powerful pulls off Williams, and it took Misbah 91 balls to bring up his 50. The partnership was worth 69 from 80 balls when Williams got one to dart past the outer edge of Akmal’s bat and clip the top of off stump. He had made 33 from 42 balls.
On his 35th birthday, Shahid Afridi only managed his 29th ODI duck for Pakistan, beaten by an even better delivery from Williams. Sohaib Maqsood stroked his way to 21 from 17 before getting the leading edge back to Mupariwa, and only 27 came from the Batting Power Play as Pakistan sought a late surge.
It didn’t come from Misbah, whose attempt to hit Chatara over the ropes found the man at long-on. Chatara, who finished with 3 for 35, was the pick of the bowlers.
Wahab struck six fours and a splendid straight six in his 46-ball innings as Pakistan took 43 from the last five overs, a late flourish that proved decisive.
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