Pakistan beat Ireland to reach quarterfinals
ADELAIDE: Sarfraz Ahmed struck his maiden ODI hundred as Pakistan advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals, knocking Ireland out with a seven-wicket triumph over the European giant-slayers in their final Pool B match on Sunday.
Set a target of 238 by the Irish, Pakistan never looked in trouble and romped home with 3.5 overs to spare, putting up a rare clinical show in what has otherwise been a topsy-turvy campaign for them in the marquee event.
Sarfraz became the first Pakistan batsman after Imran Nazir (2007) to notch up a World Cup hundred as he slammed 101-run knock to cement his place after being kept out in the initial matches of the tournament.
Pakistan will now face Australia in the last-eight stage on March 20 here after finishing third in their group with four wins out of six matches.
It was a thoroughly polished performance by a more-often-than-not mercurial team with Sarfaraz proving his worth yet again. The 27-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman shone bright with 124-ball knock, which was studded with six fours.
Man-of-the-match Sarfaraz and Shehzad put together 120 runs for the opening wicket, laying the solid foundation for a smooth chase.
For the bitterly disappointed Irish, who impressed one and all with lion-hearted performances all through, Alex Cusack was the most successful bowler with figures of 1/43 from his 10 overs.
Earlier, Irish captain William Porterfield made a composed century before Pakistan seamers staged a fightback to bowl out Ireland for 237 in the must-win game.
The 30-year-old opening batsman Porterfield made 107, but the Pakistanis came back to snare five wickets conceding only 49 runs in the last 10 overs.
Wahab Riaz was the most successful bowler for Pakistan, returning figures of 3/54, while there were two wickets apiece for Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali.
Opting to bat after winning the toss, Porterfield led by example and defied the Pakistani bowlers with elan at the Adelaide Oval.
But even as the Irish skipper stood firm, other top batsmen such as Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien failed to prosper.
Porterfield emerged as lone ranger with the others throwing away their wickets at regular intervals.
That he had only two stands of 48 runs each, with Andy Balbirnie (18) and Gary Wilson (29) for the fourth and fifth wicket respectively, indicate that Porterfield badly lacked support from the other end.
Having won three out of their last five matches in the ongoing tournament, Ireland came into this final game with high hopes of making a maiden quarterfinal appearance in the quadrennial extravaganza.
Porterfield showed the right intent, mixing caution with aggression en route to his seventh ODI hundred, but the others left a lot to be desired.
He found the fence 11 times and cleared it once during his 131-ball knock.
The Irish captain, though, was lucky to have survived a scare when he was batting on 99, as Rahat Ali failed to hold onto a catch off his own bowling.
Porterfield played an uppish drive but the ball burst through Rahat’s hands, allowing the batsman to come back for two runs and reach the three-figure mark.
For the record, there was another return catch dropped later in the innings, by Riaz when he was up against John Mooney.