Afridi fiver sees off potential upset

Shahid Afridi took a five-wicket haul to bowl out Canada for 138 runs and take Pakistan atop the Group A points table.

Updated: March 03, 2011 23:30 IST
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Colombo: Where Ireland went, Canada could not follow as their dreams of a World Cup fairytale were blown away by Shahid Afridi. For three-quarters of the game Canada had hustled Pakistan into a corner, only for Afridi to lash out with five wickets to seal Pakistan's qualification to the quarter finals.

While Afridi's speculative batting may long since have gone bust, his bowling has grown into a model of menacing consistency which has placed him well in front as the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 14 scalps from three games.

Chasing a modest 184 after a lethargic Pakistan batting effort, Canada had scrapped hard to reach 104 for 3 with 17 overs remaining. Even in conditions that had been refreshingly inviting for bowlers, it was an equation within Canada's reach, but Pakistan's jack-in-the-box captain sprung to life to wipe out the lower and middle order.


It was Saeed Ajmal, back in the side in place of Abdur Rehman, who started the collapse when he dismissed the obdurate Zubin Surkari lbw. The appeal was initially denied by umpire Daryl Harper, but the much-maligned DRS proved the bowler right. It was one of a number of decisions that Harper had to reverse as, in a single innings, the merits of umpire technology were given a perfect advertisement.

Surkari's dismissal brought the destructive Rizwan Cheema to the crease and with the target still in sight it seemed scripted that Cheema would bash his adopted country to glory against the land of his birth, but after starting with a bang over midwicket he ended with a whimper - missing an Afridi googly to lose his off bail.

Afridi's next over all but sealed the match with a slider rushing through Jimmy Hansra's defences. Hansra had played with the sort of calculated daring that underpinned Ireland's success in Bangalore but could not last long enough. Afridi was aloft in celebration a ball later when he bowled Harvir Baidwan to set up a hat-trick delivery. Though he didn't get it, he sealed his five-wicket haul when Wahab Riaz held a Tyson Gordon skier.

As if to emphasise his hold on the occasion Afridi even managed to conjure another scalp after finishing his bowling stint, hitting direct from mid-on to catch the wheezing Balaji Rao short. It meant Pakistan finished a game with all the zest that was missing from a forgettable batting display.

Were it not for a stodgy 73-run stand between Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal, Pakistan may well have joined England on the receiving end of a World Cup shock. Before they came together Pakistan were rocking at 67 for 4 and lost five wickets for 44 after their stand was broken. Misbah was as calm as ever and nursed his more volatile partner through an organised, pragmatic and thoroughly un-Pakistani partnership.

Either side of that pair it was a overconfident display as the batsmen lacked the intensity to buckle down and keep the scoreboard moving in the face of an energetic Canada effort. Using the heavy atmosphere and sporting pitch, all the Canadian bowlers caused trouble but it was the contrasting aggression of seamer Baidwan and rotund legspinner Rao who starred, constantly prodding and probing the Pakistan batsmen who were unable to raise their games.

It left Canada dreaming at the half-way stage, but Afridi intervened when his team needed him most.

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