MOHALI, India (AP) — Shahid Afridi restored some sanity to another logic-defying match at the World Cup by leading Pakistan to a narrow escape against tournament doormat Canada on Thursday.
If Ireland’s dramatic come-from-behind defeat of England was a shock, a Canada win over the 1992 World Cup winner would have made a complete mockery of every sensible pre-match prediction.
Canada had been smashed by 210 runs by Sri Lanka and battered by 175 runs by Zimbabwe, but bowled out a strong Pakistan lineup for just 184 in the Group A match in Colombo.
At 111-4 Canada was on course for a victory that may even have overshadowed Ireland’s immense effort, only for Afridi to remove four batsman in 22 deliveries, including two in two balls, and end the craziness at R. Premadasa Stadium.
Afridi also ran out Balaji Rao with a direct hit, and Wahab Riaz officially wrapped it up with a toe-crunching yorker to bowl Henry Osinde to leave Canada all out for 138 and Pakistan with a 46-run victory — and a huge sigh of relief.
“It’s a very good wake-up call for us for the next game,” captain Afridi said. “Coach Waqar Younis and myself will definitely talk to the boys that it does not happen again.”
But in between Ireland’s and Canada’s efforts to keep the smaller teams flying high, the Netherlands let them down earlier on Thursday when it crashed to a 231-run loss to South Africa in the northern city of Mohali.
Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers underlined their respective No. 1 and No. 2 world ODI batting rankings with centuries and a shared 221-run partnership, a one-day record for South Africa for the third wicket. The Dutch never recovered.
Netherlands was bowled out for 120 in reply to South Africa’s massive 351-5 — also a record ODI score at Mohali.
De Villiers stood out again in the Group B encounter after his unbeaten century in South Africa’s opening match against West Indies. He hit 134 off 98 balls against the Dutch, and Amla stroked 113, allowing captain Graeme Smith a better night’s sleep after he watched Ireland upset England the night before and wondered if his team was next.
“I didn’t sleep for about an hour last night after that,” Smith said as South Africa notched a second win in two games.
Following England’s catastrophe at Chinnaswamy Stadium, captain Andrew Strauss was trying to quickly figure out the reasons behind his team’s failure to stop a rampant Kevin O’Brien ahead of a massive match with South Africa on Sunday.
“Our bowling could have been better,” Strauss said with remarkable understatement. “We got taken by surprise there and we can’t afford to give away those kind of chances here … we were asking for trouble.”
So was Pakistan when some ill-disciplined batting saw it slip to 67-4 against a Canadian attack missing its best bowler after Khurram Chohan injured a hamstring in the seventh over.
In Chohan’s absence, Harvir Baidwan (3-35) led a gutsy effort and only a 73-run stand between Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal rescued Pakistan from serious embarrassment.
Pakistan may also have come to regret its decision to rest paceman Shoaib Akhtar when Canada edged toward a winning total, but Afridi dragged his team to victory with a remarkable spell of fast legspin bowling.
Rizwan Cheema, Jimmy Hansra, Baidwan and Tyson Gordon all fell to Afridi in less than four overs as the Pakistan captain picked up 5-23, increasing his tournament-leading wicket haul to 14.
More importantly for his team, Pakistan improved its record to three wins in three games at the World Cup.
On Friday, New Zealand will be on high alert, as all the bigger teams are now, when it faces underdog Zimbabwe in Ahmadabad in Group A.
Both teams will aim to settle into some consistency after up and down campaigns so far with New Zealand, especially, hoping for a return to the form that saw it beat Kenya by 10 wickets and not the limp performance when it was seen off by seven wickets by Australia.
In Group B, Bangladesh and West Indies have been given a quarterfinal boost following England’s slip-up. Both will want to take advantage in Mirpur in a game that could boil down to Bangladesh’s spin bowlers vs. West Indies’ batsmen.
“We can bowl up to 40 overs with spin, so that would be our focus,” said Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan, with little effort to hide the tournament co-hosts’ greatest strength.