Pakistan's batting finally finds its groove as quarterfinal against Aussies looms

Pakistan and the West Indies will complete the World Cup quarterfinal line-up after twin victories for both teams on the final day of the Pool Stage eliminated Ireland and ensured their own progression.

Pakistan won the crucial encounter of the day, a winner-takes-all clash at the Adelaide Oval, against Ireland by seven wickets.

Producing a near-perfect performance Pakistan recorded their fourth successive win and perhaps more importantly ended their losing streak batting second, winning their first run-chase in six attempts.

 Pakistans batting finally finds its groove as quarterfinal against Aussies looms

Shehzad and Sarfraz put on 120 for the first wicket before Shehzad fell to a short ball that climbed on him and was mistimed. Getty Images

Pakistan’s fast bowling, easily their stronger suit, was yet again excellent, particularly in the final ten overs when they conceded just 49 runs and took five wickets. But more encouragingly Pakistan’s batting, particularly their opening partnership, succeeded for the first time in the tournament in the most pressurised match so far.

Before the match Pakistan had the lowest average run rate in the first ten overs of any team in the tournament. But chasing a below-par but by no means easy 237, Sarfraz Ahmed and Ahmed Shehzad played with positive but sensible intent in the first ten overs, exiting the Powerplay 65-0, comfortably their best of the tournament so far.

The clinical nature of Pakistan’s approach was best exemplified by how they played George Dockrell. Introduced into the attack in the tenth over with Pakistan 48-0, spin was already fast becoming Ireland’s last option. Dockrell’s first ball was swept powerfully for four by Sarfraz. The second was then dropped short and latched upon by Sarfraz again pulling it away to the mid-wicket boundary. Two further boundaries followed in the over; Shehzad punishing a wide ball before working the final ball of the over between mid-wicket and mid-on. 17 runs came from the over. Pakistan didn’t look back.

Shehzad and Sarfraz put on 120 for the first wicket before Shehzad fell to a short ball that climbed on him and was mistimed. Shehzad’s departure brought Haris Sohail to the crease who shortly later was run out before Misbah Ul-Haq and then later Umar Akmal saw Sarfraz through to a deserved, albeit drawn-out century and Pakistan to a seven wicket victory.

Pakistan will now play tournament favourites Australia in the Quarter Finals but they will do so at the Adelaide Oval, the venue of their victory over Ireland and they will hope that a similarly two-paced pitch will negate Australia’s batsmen who enjoy the ball coming onto the bat.

Pakistan have strategically acknowledged that their batting is their weaker suit and rather than aiming for the huge totals that the likes of Australia, South Africa and the West Indies have achieved and that India and New Zealand are capable of, Pakistan’s instead settle for competitive and challenging, but not astronomical scores. They’re able to do this thanks to their bowling which has steadily improved as the tournament has progressed.

Despite missing spin-duo Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez and lead pacer Junaid Khan, Pakistan’s plentiful fast bowling stocks have given their World Cup hopes a genuine fillip on pitches that will assist them and now it seems their batting, which will never be reliable nor frightening, has at least found some form as the tournament reaches its pivotal stages.

Mohammad Irfan missed the match against Ireland with injury and will head into the quarterfinal without match practice for almost two weeks. However, Eshan Adil bowled superbly today and although he doesn’t provide the height threat of Irfan he is a more than capable replacement. Pakistan’s conveyor belt of fast bowlers is endless. Adil joined an attack led by the barrel-chested Wahab Riaz and Sohail Khan who bowl with pace, fire, swing and seam. Pakistan’s prowess with the ball is demonstrated by their economy rate in the Batting Powerplay: just 4.10 - the lowest of any team in the tournament.

Australia, with Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood have the firepower to compete with Pakistan’s pace attack. The match may therefore hinge upon how each team copes with each other’s bowling. After today’s performance with the bat Pakistan will be more confident that they have at least a fighting chance.

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Updated Date: Mar 16, 2015 08:16:23 IST