Pakistan keep slim World Cup hopes alive with South Africa win

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Pakistan and South Africa players shake hands after their Twenty20 World Cup match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Thursday. AFP

Gutsy Pakistan kept their slim Twenty20 World Cup hopes alive with a 33-run win over South Africa in a dramatic rain-affected match at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.

South Africa, who are still on course for the semi-finals, came out blazing after a rain delay saw their initial target of 186 adjusted down to 142, meaning they needed 73 runs in five overs.

But the asking rate was too much and they finished on 108-9 at the end of a captivating match that had a bit of everything, from bad weather to good bowling and dropped catches.

Their win means Pakistan can still reach the World Cup semi-finals if they win their last match against Bangladesh on Sunday and other results go their way.

But they must rely on India or South Africa losing their final games. India face Zimbabwe and the Proteas play the Netherlands.

Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan had rescued Pakistan with the bat with a superb 82-run partnership, their World Cup having looking dead and buried prior to that.

Captain Babar Azam, who failed with the bat once again, was full of praise for his fighting side.

“These are our best players and everyone is ready to play,” Azam said.

“Everyone is a match-winner. Our first two matches were close losses, but we’ve given 100 percent in the last two matches and you never know, cricket is a funny game.

“We hope for the best.”

Iftikhar, who came to the crease with Pakistan in big trouble at 43-4, scored 51 off 35 balls and Shadab blazed 52 from 22 as Pakistan finished their innings at 185-9.

Pakistan had looked headed for a certain early exit from the tournament as the South African seam attack tore through the top order.

But Iftikhar stayed firm, sharing a 52-run partnership with Mohammad Nawaz before he and Shadab took the much-vaunted South African attack apart, taking the score from 95-5 to 177-6.

After finishing strongly with the bat, the Pakistanis began well with the ball, Quinton de Kock chipping Shaheen Shah Afridi to Mohammad Haris at midwicket for a duck on the last ball of the first over.

Afridi then removed the dangerous Rilee Rossouw for seven in his second over, caught by Naseem Shah on the third man boundary, leaving South Africa 16-2.

South African captain Temba Bavuma has been struggling for form this tournament but he looked in great touch as he cruised to 36. He and Aiden Markram took the score to 65.

But Shadab changed the game in his first over, the leg-spinner having Bavuma caught behind then bowling Markram through the gate one run later, leaving South Africa teetering at 66-4.

The rain, which had been falling lightly on and off for much of the match in Sydney, then began to come down more heavily, forcing the players from the field with nine overs down.

When they returned South Africa needed 73 runs in five overs, a target that proved too great.

“It was definitely disappointing the way we ended our bowling and fielding,” Bavuma said.

“Getting them four down early — we have questions to ask and need to come up with solutions.

“We knew the weather could be an issue. We probably didn’t adapt quick enough.

“We want to put this game past us as quickly as possible and come again.”

India top the group on six points, with South Africa second on five. Only the top two reach the semi-finals.

Pakistan are third and Bangladesh fourth. They each have four points but Pakistan’s net run rate is superior.

Agence France-Presse

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