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.