Month: March 2015

The A Team

Australia's players hold the trophy aloft as they celebrate their fiffth world cup success.

Australia’s players hold the trophy aloft as they celebrate their fiffth world cup success.

Four time champions Australia reached a new level of supremacy with a convincing seven wicket win over arch rivals New Zealand, in the cricket world cup final. The success on home soil for Australia means that they have won cricket’s top prize on five separate occasions.

The fitting tribute for the Australian captain Michael Clarke some may say, Clarke a few days earlier stated that this tournament will be his last as he is set to retire. Another factor which makes the world cup win all that more special for the Aussies is that of the sad passing of Phil Hughes earlier this year.

Hughes the 26 year old who rose to stardom by hitting successive centuries earlier in his career, sadly lost his life after never regaining consciousness after being hit by a bouncer in Sydney – many of Australia’s players have said that they want to win the world cup in his honour .

Emotionally there was something riding on this game for New Zealand and Daniel Vettori. Thirty six year old Vettori who has been a brilliant servant for the New Zealand game is rumoured to be retiring from one day internationals, after the world cup – so Vettori will no doubt be wanting to go out on a high note. The left arm spinner was captain of the national side from 2007-2011 – and would have looking to be a leader in the bowling department for New Zealand here.

This eagerly anticipated clash between the two Tasman rivals saw New Zealand play away from home for the first time in the tournament. The Kiwis who have won all their games in their run to the final, included Matt Henry for the injured Adam Milne.

Australia came into this one unchanged – and with the run they’re on why change?

In the build up to this match much was made of winning the toss and batting first. The visitors New Zealand won the toss and batted first – but that decision very quickly seemed to be the wrong one.

The Kiwis were no doubt looking to put runs on the board to defend like they did in the quarter final against West Indies, however in this game the Black Caps were blown away.

Brendan McCullum so often the slayer of attacks this time departed for a three ball duck, the New Zealand captain sadly wasn’t able to produce the innings which blew the South African attack away in the semi- finals.

If the quarter final against West Indies is to go by, that didn’t matter – but unfortunately for the Kiwis Kane Williamson and Martin Guptil departed soon after their captain did. Those dismissals brought semi final hero Grant Elliott and the experienced Ross Taylor to the crease.

Elliott and Taylor after the early carnage were charged with rebuilding the New Zealand innings – and that they did, all be it in painstaking fashion. The fourth wicket pair put on 111 – and the platform looked set for the Kiwis’ power hitters such as Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi.

Sadly though for New Zealand the end of that fourth wicket partnership sparked a massive collapse as seven wickets fell for 33 runs. The Kiwis after that batting collapse crumbled to 183 all out.

Before the game the Melbourne pitch was adjudged to be a batters paradise – but in the end the MCG was anything but. The pace and bounce was just to much for the Black Caps to deal with as Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner took three wickets apiece.

Australia's players hold the trophy aloft as they celebrate their fiffth world cup success.

Australia’s players hold the trophy aloft as they celebrate their fiffth world cup success.

Any hopes of the rematch of the two Tasman rivals being a low scoring thriller like the match in the group stages were dashed very quickly. Although New Zealand’s bowler of the tournament – and maybe the bowler of the tournament Trent Boult had Aaron Finch caught and bowled for two, you felt the Aussies had enough quality in their batting to knock the runs off.

Finch’s opening partner David Warner was able to make a near run a ball 45 – but even when Warner was second out with the score on 63, the winning line seemed near. The dismissal of the Aussie opener brought Australia’s captain Michael Clarke and maybe the person to replace him as captain – Steven Smith.

Although they may have started off slowly Smith and Clarke improved their scoring. In particular Michael Clarke seized upon on anything short and with some brilliant drives and lovely cut shots – the stage seemed set for Australia’s captain to guide them home.

However there was time for New Zealand to take one more wicket – and it was that of Michael Clarke. The Australian captain was bowled by Matt Henry with just nine needed, that wicket was prolonging the inevitable -and the inevitable duly came as Steven Smith who hit a record fifth consecutive fifty, pulled Henry to hit the winning runs.

Azhar ALI Set To Be Appointed Pakistan Skipper

Azhar Ali is set to become the new captain of Pakistan's ome day side. The 30 year old replaces Misbah Ul-Haq who retired from one day internationals after this world cup.

Azhar Ali is set to become the new captain of Pakistan’s ome day side. The 30 year old replaces Misbah Ul-Haq who retired from one day internationals after this world cup.

The ongoing cricket world cup has not only been one of the best in living memory, it’s also going to the be end of some of the greatest players careers. Kumar Sangakarra, Mahela Jayawardena, Michael Clarke and Pakistan’s Mr reliable Misbah Ul-Haq are to name some cricketing greats who will no longer be operating in the one day arena after this world cup.

To replace such players is always going to be tough – but in Pakistan’s case they will need to replace Misbah Ul-Haq in more ways than one. The 40 year old who has overseen test wins over England and Australia on ‘neutral’ soil deserves a lot of credit in his time as captain of Pakistan’s one day team.

Although Misbah will be still playing in tests the 40 year old leaves a void in the middle of the Pakistan one day batting line up batting, he also leaves the Pakistani’s with an experienced player short with leadership qualities in the middle order of their batting.

Often criticised for his captaincy, Misbah Ul-Haq took his beleaguered side into the tournament – and did well. Opening defeats to India and West Indies never helps – but the way they roared into the quarter finals, which included a thrilling win over South Africa deserves huge credit.

In life you can never keep everyone happy – and Misbah will know that – but having scored 5,000 with an impressive batting average, it’s fair to say that the people who criticise the Pakistan captain are being harsh.

All good things must come to an end they say – and with Misbah Ul-Haq no spring chicken at the ripe old age of 40, the need to replace Misbah was always inevitable. Many replacements were touted such as Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shazhad – but with both of these players they have gone missing when their country has needed them the most.

Although both of these players are destined for greatness – and the argument is that if either Akmal or Shazhad are made captain it will improve their game with the responsibility, Pakistan have intact gone for 30 year old Azhar Ali.

A surprising choice may say considering Ali hasn’t been involved in the Pakistan one day squad for two years – but the calmness he ensues is the main factor what seems to have swung the opinion of the Pakistan cricket board.

Ali has scored hundreds against England and Australia – so the 30 year old does possess the temperament and skill when play against the top sides. In fact Azhar Ali does posses a very impressive average of 41 in one day internationals despite only playing 14 one dayers.

Selecting players as captain who have been in the international wilderness isn’t something unheard of. Players such as Rashid Latif and Waqar Younis have been selected as captains of the national side after being in the wilderness on the international scene.

As a matter of fact England indeed did the same trick with Alistair Cook – and initially that appointment was a master stroke as the three lions topped the one day rankings.

In Azhar Ali’s case he has captained the likes of Wahab Riaz and Nasir Jamshed in the U19 world cup – so is seen as a popular choice by Pakistan’s players themselves. The main reason Pakistan opted for Ali was due top the fact that both out going captain Misbah Ul-Haq and coach Waqar Younis are both impressed with Ali’s calm persona. It’s not as if Azhar Ali is being thrown at the deep end as Ali has captained plenty of sides domestically – but the Pakistani captiancy will be a test even for the ‘calm’ Azhar Ali.

The Juan And Only

Manchester United's players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Manchester United’s players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Juan Mata scored twice as Manchester United ruined Steven Gerrard’s final Merseyside derby with a just about deserved 2-1 win in the big Sunday lunchtime game.

The hosts who’s last defeat came against the Red Devils in December, were unchanged – which meant club captain Gerrard would have to come off the bench to appear in this one. As for the visitors United who looked to have returned to form after an impressive win over Tottenham last week, they make just the single change as Ashley Young comes in – but the returning Angel Di Maria who was sent off in the FA Cup against Arsenal starts this one from the bench.

As for the match itself, United got out of the blocks the quicker. The visitors midfield of Fellaini, Carrick, Mata and Young were slick in their passing – and were operating at the tempo which blew away Tottenham last week.

Liverpool had no answer – and despite having the majority of the possession, it was indeed Louis Van Gaal’s side who looked more fluent in attack – and it was a little of surprise that United would take the lead in the 14th minute.

Juan Mata who was brilliant in last weeks win at Old Trafford, was equally as brilliant here. The Spaniard who had been subject of transfer speculation at the start of the season , latched on to a fantastic Ander Herrera through ball- and beat the on rushing Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet with a brilliantly placed finish into the bottom corner.

The visitors at the point were in complete control – but rather naively took their foot off the pedal, which allowed the hosts to come back into the game. After going a goal down Liverpool’s response was good as Adam Lalana missed a great chance to level the scores before halftime.

The former Southampton captain who earned a reputation for scoring goals by arriving late in the box did that here – but disappointingly fired wide when maybe he should have scored. That missed chance was one of the last bits of action of the first half as United went in at the break a goal up.

Liverpool who have been in brilliant for since that defeat to United were in dire need of shaking things up in midfield. So who better to bring on at the start of the second half than club legend Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool skipper who has only just returned from a hamstring injury, would have been determined to end his associations in Merseyside derbies on a high – but there was no fairy tale ending for the Liverpool captain here.

Gerrard who was brought on to provide a calmness into the Liverpool midfield that was lacking the first half, inexcusably lost his head – and was sent off. The 34 year old Gerrard who had barely been on the pitch for more than two minutes was involved in a 50/50 challenge with United’s Herrera – and then rather foolishly stamped on the United midfielder’s leg, which didn’t go unnoticed, all be it with some assistance by the referee’s assistant.

That Red card was to prove costly as Juan Mata scored with a wonderful goal to apparently put the game beyond doubt. The Spaniard started a well worked move – and the 28 year old passed to Di Maria which lead to the Argentine to provide a well judged chip over the Liverpool defence – and set Juan Mata up to acrobatically place a left strike in the bottom corner of Mignolet’s goal.

With the game seeming out of Liverpool’s reach, United became complacent – and despite having 10 men it was Liverpool who looked the better side, despite having 10 men. The visitors sloppiness allowed Daniel Sturridge to pull a goal back with a near post strike, which David De Gea maybe could have done better with.

Fortunately for United there were no more goals in this one. The visitors did have time to win a penalty in the dying minutes as Emre Can clumsily brought down Daley Blind in the box. The resulting penalty kick was missed however as Wayne Rooney’s kick was at a nice height for Liverpool keeper Mignolet to save.

Advantage United then in the ‘rat race’ for fourth, as Man United manager Van Gaal put it -but with both sides needing to play the big sides such as Arsenal and Chelsea, the race for fourth isn’t over just yet.The

Fleetwood Fight Back Hits Bradford’s Hopes

Bradford striker Jonathan Stead was on target for the Bantams - but couldn't prevent his side drawing against Fleetwood.

Bradford striker Jonathan Stead was on target for the Bantams – but couldn’t prevent his side drawing against Fleetwood.

Two late goals from Fleetwood meant that the Lancashire side came back from Valley Parade with a point, after being two goals down. The result against the ‘Cod Army’ leaves the Bantams in 12th, all be it with two games in hand on their play off rivals.

Bradford who missed the chance of a Wembley date earlier in the week with an agonising FA Cup replay defeat against Reading had Filipe Morais unavailable for this one. The former Chelsea man’s sending off in that defeat on Monday night means the 29 year old will have to sit out of this one.

As for the visitors Fleetwood they could call on Stephen Dobbie, after the midfielder was previously unavailable.

After enduring the heart ache of missing out on a chance of a Wembley date with Arsenal, the Bantams came into this one in determined fashion – and it was of no surprise when the home side took the lead.

Jonathan Stead who was a key part in the memorable FA Cup opened the scoring. Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell wasn’t able to hold on to a Billy Clarke cross, which allowed Stead to score.

The opening goal was a reward for Bradford’s dominance – and it was of little surprise when the home side double their lead. Christopher Routis who replaced the suspended Morais doubled the hosts lead. Routis managed to squeeze in James Hanson’s far post cross – and at that point the Bantams looked in complete control – but that goal seemed to spark Fleetwood to life.

The visitors who were dominated, managed to pull a goal back when Jamie Proctor pulled a goal back when he headed in Tyler Hornby- Forbes’ cross. Despite the disappointment of conceding that goal, you still would have back Bradford to see the game out – but unfortunately for the home fans Fleetwood’s Nathan Pond had the last say as the Fleetwood man scored in stoppage time after an all mighty scramble.

Two apiece it finished then – but this result will be a better result for the visitors no doubt. Having said that Bradford aren’t out of the promotion race just as they do have two games in hand on their play off rivals – but more dropped points in a fiercely competitive play off race is never ideal.

Record Breaker Guptill Helps New Zealand Progress To Semis

Record breaker Martin Guptill celebrates getting hitting  a double hundred in the world cup quarter final agains

Record breaker Martin Guptill celebrates getting hitting a double hundred in the world cup quarter final agains

New Zealand’s Martin Guptill broke all kinds of records as he helped New Zealand reach a record equalling seventh semi-final after the Kiwis defeated West Indies by 143 runs. The New Zealand openers quite astonishing 237 not out, which is a new world cup record helped set up a mouth watering tie with South Africa.

The hosts who have been one of the form sides of this tournament, came into this one with an unblemished record with the Black Caps winning seven out of their first seven games. New Zealand who have been brilliant in this tournament with bat and ball recalled Adam Milne who replaces Mitchell McClenaghan who disappointed against Bangladesh.

The visitors who are two time champions, opted to drop paceman Kemar Roach and bring in spinner Suleman Benn – but the most surprising change was at the top of the order where Dwayne Smith was dropped and replaced by Johnson Charles. The exclusion of the former however some may argue isn’t that surprising considering Smith has had a disappointing tournament so far.

It was New Zealand who won the toss and elected to bat first, which surprised many considering the last time the Kiwis played on this ground against England they bowled first. With a closer look at the pitch though however, the decision to bat first looked to be a good one due to the state of the pitch.

The home side got their chase off to a typically aggressive start with Brendan McCullum, well just being his usual self. The former wicket-keeper batsmen was kept off strike in the early stage as Martin Guptill farmed the early strike with relative success – but was given a life line when West Indies’ Marlon Samuels dropped Guptill when the New Zealander was on four- and boy did he make the Caribbean side pay for that.

In the early stages it was McCullum who was being the aggressor, hitting Jerome Taylor for a four and a six – but when the skipper miscued a shot, it was left to Windies captain Jason Holder to a take a smart catch whilst running backwards.

Despite that aggressive start, it wouldn’t have been the ideal start for the home side who lost their captain cheap and early. That dismissal brought in Kane Williamson who has had a quite brilliant 18 months.

The visitors after making the early break through would have been sensing blood no doubt – so Williamson and Guptill needed to bat sensibly to enable the Kiwi’s to regroup – and that they did. The second wicket pair did that brilliantly as they put on 62 for the second wicket.

New Zealand were at that stage starting to get back on top in this game- but when Kane Williamson misjudged a slower ball to give Chris Gayle a simple catch, which the West Indian did his utmost to drop it seemed- the Kiwis were in need to regroup again.

That dismissal brought Ross Taylor to the areas who is maybe the only batsmen in the Kiwi batting line up who is struggling slightly – but as they say class is permanent and form is temporary.

With Martin Guptill being the aggressor, the pair managed to managed to put on 143 for the second wicket. That’s not to belittle Ross Taylor’s patient 43 – but it was Guptill who took the headlines as the 28 year old quite brilliantly took the visiting attack apart.
Usually you would associate the kind of hitting Guptill was doing with that of his captain McCullum – but the clean striking and powerful hitting left the Windies in awe – and unable to stop the juggernaut that was Guptill.

The New Zealand opener’s brilliant innings of 237 not out included 24 fours and 11 massive sixes with one six going out of the ground. That brilliant knock enabled the home side to post a mammoth 393-6, a world cup knock out stage record. Guptill’s 237 is the highest score in the world cup, beating the previous record which Chris Gayle set 25 days before.

The 28 year old became the first New Zealander to score successive world cup hundreds and the first New Zealander to bat through the 50 overs three times in ODIs.

West Indies who had the misfortune of losing the toss, knew they had a mountain to climb in regards to chasing such a big total. Unfortunately West Indies were never really in the hunt as key players such as Johnson Charles and Lendl Simmonds were out cheaply.

Chris Gayle however did produce some fireworks with a typical Gayle like innings. The tall left hander clubbed eight sixes to briefly entertain the crowd – but when the West Indies opener was out for 61 bowled Adam Milne for 61, the Caribbean side’s hopes of a semi final place were effectively over.

The visitors were scoring at a good pace – but losing wickets at regular intervals never helps – and the visitors’ brave challenge ended when captain Jason Holder was last out for a breezy 42 off just 26 balls.

So it’s New Zealand who progress at West Indies expense. The Kiwis will now face South Africa on Tuesday 24th March in the semi finals in what promises to be a great match as neither side have ever played in a world cup final.

Pak To Their Best?

Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed raise his bat aloft after helping Pakistan to a seven wicket win. over Ireland. The win against Ireland means they will now play hosts Australia in the quarter final.

Pakistan’s Sarfraz Ahmed raise his bat aloft after helping Pakistan to a seven wicket win. over Ireland. The win against Ireland means they will now play hosts Australia in the quarter final.

1992 World Champions Pakistan overcame the brave challenge of Ireland to earn the right to face Australia in next weeks quarter final with a seven wicket win over the associate nation.

In a highly anticipated game which would have seen the winner progress to the quarter final stage – and the loser eliminated, it was Ireland who won the toss in this crucial match and opted to bat first.

The Irish came into this with all their key players available ( Both Openers and the explosive Kevin O’Brien). As for Pakistan who triumphed in 1992 when the tournament was last in Australia their team showed two changes, Harris Sohail returns after injury in place of Younus Khan and Ehsan Adil replaces Mohammed Irfan to make his first appearance of this world cup.

Ireland who can say they have beaten Pakistan in the past, would have every right to have been optimistic here- but the initial optimism decreased as Paul Stirling was dismissed by Adil with just 11 on the board. The worst possible start for the associate nation who knew that there was a lot riding on this game.

That early dismissal brought former England batsmen Ed Joyce to the crease – and at first it looked like the Sussex captain and Ireland’s captain William Porterfield had helped their side recover from the initial loss of Sterling. Sadly though Joyce was second out after being caught by Umar Akmal who would go on to take four catches in the game.

Through out Ireland’s innings players made ‘starts’ but could never truly cash in. Despite Portefield’s brilliant hundred which was the highest score by an associate nation’s captain, Ireland were all out for 237. After the Irish skippers heroics the next highest scorer was wicketkeeper Gary Wilson who scored 29. Ireland were at least 30 runs short we felt – but Pakistan’s disciplined attack never allowed Ireland’s score to get out of their control.

With the 1992 world champions just needing 237 to win to secure their place in the quarter finals, the Pakistan openers combined to put on their best opening stand in this tournament, by some distance. Ahmed Shehzhad and Sarfraz Ahmed who hit a superb 49 against South Africa, put on 120 for the first wicket. Even when Shehzhad was dismissed off the bowling of Stuart Thompson for a well played 63, Pakistan always seemed in control of this one.

However there was time for some late drama, or so Ireland thought.The recalled Harris Sohail was dismissed six runs later after a horrible mix up with Sarfraz Ahmed which lead to the run out of Sohail. If Ireland thought that dismissal was a chance for them to seize a potential advantage, sadly they were mistaken. Pakistan captain Misbah Ul-Haq was in next – and that was just what Pakistan needed as their captain effectively ended this one as a contest with a breezy 39 0ff just 46 balls which included two big sixes.

When Misbah was out for 39 after treading on his stumps, there was only 30 runs needed, so it was fair to say the game was effectively over. Pakistan eventually did secure the win with a four down the ground from Umar Akmal.

So Pakistan secured their place in the quarter finals after winning this game by seven wickets. The main reason for this win was a well disciplined bowling display and a very patient maiden century from wicket keeper batsmen Sarfraz Ahmed who anchored the run chase. Although Pakistan only closed the game out in the 47th over, they were never really troubled in this one.

Pakistan will now face Australia in the quarter final which will be on Friday 13th March. As for Ireland although they are eliminated they can go home proud of their achievements.

Determined Blackburn Earn FA Cup Replay Against Liverpool

Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers - FA Cup Quarter Final

Championship side Blackburn produced a dogged display to hold Premiership side Liverpool to a goalless draw in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Blackburn came into this one in confident mood after dumping out Premier League side Stoke 4-1 in the last round.

The visitors Blackburn who are 11th in the Championship again had Jordan Rhodes on the bench, which has lead to speculation that the Scottish International could be loaned out to promotion chasing Derby County.

Blackburn captain Matt Kilgallon who was full of praise for stand in Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson before the game also starts.

As for the home side Liverpool who have been in brilliant form of late, they didn’t have club captain Steven Gerrard in their match day squad as the 34 year old recovers fully from a hamstring injury.

Other than that bit of news the Reds had very much the same team that has been instrumental in their impressive revival after a very poor start to the season. Liverpool are now fifth in the Premier League respectively – and are now with in touching distance of fourth place Manchester United.

Despite there being some 25 league places separating the two sides, it was Blackburn who started brightly. Craig Conway fired over for the visitors early on as the visitors didn’t appear to be intimidated by their premeir League opponnents. Kolo Toure who replaced fellow central defender Martin Skrtel who had to go off with a serious looking head injury, had a goal ruled out for offside.

The Reds who haven’t won English footballs top cup competition since 2006,had goal keeper Simon Mignolet to thank for keeping them in the game. The Belgian who received a lot of criticism for his performances earlier in the season, dived superbly to his left and clawed a way a powerful Alex Baptiste drive which was destined for the top corner.

With hosts struggling to take a strangle hold of thr game, Liverpool decided to bring on Mario Balotelli who looks like he is now starting to settle in to life at Anfield, the Italian came on to offer some support to Daniel Sturridge as the Premier League side were looking to avoid the replay.

However just like in the last round, Liverpool couldn’t break down their Championship hosts as this game finished 0-0. Blackburn would be the happier of the two sides you would think, especially with the knowledge that they have defeated Premier League opposition in Swansea and Stoke at Ewood Park.

With Liverpool though Rovers know they have a much more difficult game, the Reds did beat Blackburn’s Lancashire rivals Bolton, so this will be far from easy. It’s hard to say who will win this match – but what is certain is that this cup tie is finely balanced.

The Three Musketeers Help Boost Pakistan World Cup Hopes

Mohammed Irfan celebrates taking a wicket in Pakistan's 29 run win over South Africa.

Mohammed Irfan celebrates taking a wicket in Pakistan’s 29 run win over South Africa.

Pakistan produced a brilliant performance to win against all the odds against one of the pre tournament favourites South Africa. Pakistan in typical Pakistan fashion insisted on doing it the hard way – but this win by 29 runs via the Duckworth Lewis method sees the 1992 world champions on course for the quarter finals.

The 2009 and T20 World champions came into this match showing two changes, one was enforced and was tactical. Nasser Jamshed who has excelled for Pakistan at the top of the order in the past, has sadly struggled in this tournament, wicket keeper batsmen Sarfraz Ahmed took his place at the top of the order.

The other change sees the injured Harris Sohail miss out, with veteran Younus Khan back in the side and at number three in the batting order.

As for South Africa they just showed the one change, Farhaan Behardien makes way for the returning JP Duminy who was injured in the last match.

It was South Africa who won the toss and unsurprisingly opted to out Pakistan into bat. Proteas captain AB Devilliers appeared to have made the right choice, as this was the pitch which produced the low scoring thriller between the two hosts New Zealand and Australia.

Pakistan who have evidently struggled in the first 10 overs this tournament, seemed much more determined to bat better than what they have done in the first 10 overs of previous matches. The Green shirts as they are also known, Pakistan were very circumspect in the first 10 .

To their credit, Pakistan were batting really well and there was no need to panic as far as Pakistan are concerned. Sarfraz Ahmed in particularly was playing with purpose as the 27 year old was playing out of his crease at any given opportunity, maybe to just look to unsettle the South African attack.

South Africa though were on the whole very well disciplined – but didn’t bowl many short balls considering this pitch did have extra bounce in it. Pakistan and more in particular Ahmed Shehzhad after weathering the initial storm if you will but began to play more expansive .

The Pakistani opener played some beautiful straight drives as he looked to move through the gears – but Shehzhad’s innings would come to an end due to a brilliant catch from one of the South African players you would least expect.

Dale Steyn who is famed for his bowling took a quite brilliant catch to remove Pakistan’s opener. Ahmed Shezhad who was starting to gain a bit of confidence after those drives, decided to take on Kyle Abbot – but managed to only find Dale Steyn who quite brilliantly dived backwards to catch a ball in midair.

After that setback Shehzhad’s opening partner Sarfraz Ahmed exploded and hit 23 of a JP Duminy over which included three massive sixes. Ahmed seemed well set to get a 50 – but rather needlessly ran him self out when trying to chase two runs for his 50, it was poor judgement from Pakistan’s wicket keeper who tried to take on one of South Africa’s better fielders in David Miller.

After Pakistan lost their second just before the 100 came up, Younus Khan and captain Misbah Ul-Haq looked to regroup and consolidate their ascendancy. The Pakistani’s plan at that point was working – but when Younus Khan unforgivably lost his wicket for 37 playing a nothing shot off the part time bowling of De Villiers, Pakistan were again on the back foot at 132-3.

In came Sohaib Maqsood, a very capable middle order batsmen – but just like Khan, Maqsood also played a careless shot, South Africa at that point were looking to turn the screw. When Umar Akmal came in, a player who has performed reasonably well this world cup, the Green Shirts must have thought that any threat of a middle order collapse were dispelled.

Sadly however just like the other batsmen before him, Umar Akmal played a needless shot which De Villers gladly caught with out knowing to much about it due to the bad light. Soon after that dismissal the rain came and the players had to go off – but thankfully there was no detriment on the game, which made Akmal’s dismissal all the more unnecessary.

After being in a position of utter dominance, Pakistan contributed to their own down fall. When the players did come back out, the Pakistani’s crumbled from being 175-5 after Akmal’s dismissal, Pakistan were all out for 222.

The 1992 world champions in a game they could do with winning looked to have made a score which was at least 25 runs short of a par score.

South Africa in a match which was made to 47 overs a side due to rain interruptions, came out to bat knowing that if they successfully chase this total down, they’re all but through to the quarter finals – and that’s when the drama unfolded.

The Proteas couldn’t have got off to a worse start, Quinton De Kock who is struggling for form with the bat, also struggled for runs today. De Kock departed for a duck to leave South Africa in deep trouble at 0-1.

It was left to the experienced pair of Hashim Amla and Faf Du Plessis to rebuild the innings, and that they did superbly. Amla and Du Plessis put on 67 for the second wicket – but when Du Plessis was caught behind by Sarfraz Ahmed off the bowling Rahat Ali, Pakistan’s left arm seam trio of Mohammed Irfan, Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz got to work and essentially blew South Africa away.

Hashim Amla soon followed Du Plessis. Riley Rossouw who has impressed in South Africa’s last two games where they have scored 400, sadly for South African fans failed to make a big contribution as the RCB player just made six.

Rossouw wasn’t the only player to get a low score as Duminy and Miller were both dismissed cheaply, the latter being dismissed for a duck. In fact in South Africa’s lower order it was Dale Steyn who got the highest score with 16.

South Africa after doing brilliantly to restrict Pakistan, looked like they had quite clearly pressed self destruct as the Proteas managed to slump to 172-8. The South African’s hadn’t done just yet – and still had AB De Villiers at the other end of the ensuing carnage
When De Villiers was ninth man out for a well played 72, you knew the game was up for South Africa. The game did duly end when Imran Tahir was demised two runs later to hand Pakistan a 29 run win via Duckworth Lewis method.

Pakistan with this win have most definitely reigned their hopes of a quarter final place. As for South Africa despite losing today their superior run rate gives them an edge of their rivals. Group B draws to a climax on Thursday 12th and Sunday 15th March.

Bradford 0-0 Reading

Bradford City v Reading - FA Cup Quarter Final

Bradford 0-0 Reading

Bradford failed to take advantage of being at home in this FA Cup quarter final tie as Reading left Valley Parade still with in a shout of an FA Cup semi final as this one ended all square at 0-0, which means this match will have to be replayed on Monday 16th March.

The hosts just like in the other FA Cup ties, had to call on former Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Williams as Sunderland loanee Jordan Pickford hasn’t been given the approval to play by parent club Sunderland. Gary Liddle also returns for the home side after serving a ban.

As for the visitors Reading, they were pretty much as full strength as strikers Hal Robson Kanu and Pavel Probgrebnyak both started for the Royals.

With the incentive of a Wembley day out at stake, both sides were rather tentative as both sides resorted to long balls on a very difficult pitch, the playing surface was something which Sunderland manager Gus Poyet also publicly pointed in the build to their match against Bradford .

Although they are a side who are strong and physical, Bradford aren’t afraid to ‘put the ball down and play’. This game however the Bantams faced a different challenge, as the pitch was difficult to play and also home side were seen by some as the favourites for the tie despite being a league below Reading.

Wins against Chelsea and then Sunderland was only going to increase expectation on Bradford and they nearly fell behind in the first half. Russian striker Probgrebnyak latched on to a Jamie Mackie cross – but could only hit the post with a right footed shot.

Rattled by that, Bradford looked to take advantage of their reprieve and hit the woodwork themselves. The returning Gary Liddle who has had to sit out the last few games due to suspension, saw his speculative cross creep past Royal’s keeper Adam Federici – but thankfully for the away side Liddle’s effort hit the post.

Buoyed by hitting the post, Bradford came out the stronger in what turned out to be an overall tight affair. The home side will be slightly disappointed of not taking advantage of some good situations.

Andrew Davies saw his headed effort go over the bar and Scott Hanson’s side footed effort flashed agonisingly wide. Those missed chances nearly proved costly as an Oliver Norwood free kick was floated into the box – but a combination of the woodwork and some last ditch defending kept Bradford’s clean sheet intact.

This one finished all square. Reading will be the happier of the two sides as they have the advantage of playing at home next – but Bradford you feel won’t be phased by that. The West Yorkshire side have played with out fear and this what makes this cup tie so finally balanced.