For the third time running, Pakistan’s batmen failed to piece together their innings. It didn’t matter that they faced a comparatively weaker opposition. To Zimbabwe’s credit they pushed Pakistan to the wall after taking out the top six batsmen. 162/6 in 40 overs can only be regarded as too uncompetitive in CWC 2015, where plenty of matches have seen 300+plus scores. England lost in the morning after posting 309 against Sri Lanka and a little over two weeks ago, Ireland successfully chased West Indies’s score of 304/7 and emerged victorious with 25 balls remaining. On paper, Pakistan is considered as a better side in comparison to Zimbabwe but that academic superiority didn’t show on the field as the batsmen struggled against Zimbabwean bowlers. Thanks to the late push after the 35th over by Misbah-Ul-Haq, Sohail Masood and Wahab Riaz, Pakistan could set a modest 236-run target for Zimbabwe. It was for the fourth time in four matches that Zimbabwe failed with their bowling in the death overs. The 73 runs that Zimbabwe conceded in the last 10 overs proved fortuitous for Pakistan. And when Pakistan came back to defend 235, Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz put heavy pressure on the Zimbabweans in the closing stages and Pakistan scraped through with a 20-run victory.
When Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss, he took a right decision in batting on the mid-day pitch at the Gabba. But Misbah didn’t know that his openers would fail again. Too much caution first and indiscretion later, claimed both Pakistan openers Nashir Jamshed and Ahmad Shehzad by the 4th over with Pakistan being reduced to 4/2. They fell in contrasting styles to the bowling of Tendi Chatara. While Jamshed played a loose stroke to a short ball, Shehzed faced a genuine beauty from the bowlers. He had to play since the ball was directed to his off stump but he could only nick it to the keeper. Misbah and Haris Sohail carried the score to 58 in the 21st over, when Sohail got out. Shahid Afridi collected his first World Cup duck and when he left at 127/5 in 33.5 overs, the Zimbabwe bowlers were on top. With responsibility on his shoulders, Misbah had to stick around as batsmen fell at the other end. This caused a marked slowdown in the rate of scoring, a factor most essential in ODI games. But Misbah couldn’t help and his score of 73 contained just 3 fours and consumed 121 balls. Wahab Riaz , who was adjudged the player of the match propped up Pakistan’s batting with a power-packed 54 off 46 balls in the final score of 235/7 at the end of 50 overs.
A victory target of 236 for Zimbabwe was not so difficult and for Pakistan, the victory in this match was perhaps their last chance to bounce back in contention for the quarterfinal spot. With dice loaded equally, the chase began badly for Zimbabwe as Mohammad Irfan removed the first three Zimbabwean wickets with some great bowling. Chamu Chibhabha and Sikandar Raza fell in an identical style hanging out their bats to the short balls and getting nicks for the slip fielder Haris Sohail. Wicketkeeper Brendon Taylor took command and began resurrecting the innings. With Hamilton Masakadza he produced a 52-run third-wicket stand before Masakadza was caught by Misbah, when he tried an aerial shot against Irfan. But Taylor continued with Sean Williams for another 54-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Even after Taylor departed as the fifth wicket, Williams was there as a thorn in Pakistan’s way. But in the 34th over, Williams fell too and that was ominous for Zimbabwe’s chances. By the 40th over, Pakistan had reduced Zimbabwe to 168/8 and their first World Cup victory loomed in the horizon. But Chigumbura had come back from his field injury earlier in the day amid speculations and his stay at the crease raised Zimbabwe’s hopes. He sent panic in Pakistan camp when he not only refused to get out but forked out a 47-run ninth wicket stand with Tinashe Panyangara. As the match entered the 50th over, Zimbabwe required 24 off the last 6 balls from Wahab Riaz. It was a tall order for Zimbabwe, who had missed the bus early. Zimbabwe’s hopes were shattered by Riaz as he accounted for the wickets of Panyangara and Chigumbura off successive balls. Pakistani fielders jumped with joy, hugged each other as fans began the celebration in the stands.
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