Politics

Rizwan and Babar power Pakistan into cricket World Cup semis

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The most unpredictable team in world cricket Pakistan breezed into the semifinals of the Twenty20 World Cup and South Africa also took a mighty big step in the right direction as well. England advanced on Monday leaving the others to battle for the remaining two spots. One can expect a battle royale in the next four days with all eyes focused on hot-favourite India. India is down on its knees after getting pummelled in its first two contests by Pakistan and New Zealand and its chances of making it through hang on a thread.

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In the humid conditions in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday Pakistan cruised by 45 runs over a fighting Namibia in the evening encounter after South Africa kept its dream alive by making light work of a poor Bangladesh squad by charging to a six-wicket victory.

Playing with an unchanged team for the fourth straight match, Pakistan captain Babar Azam surprised the crowd by electing to bat first in a tournament where the chasing team has prevailed. And Babar justified his decision as he led with the front foot with a sparkling 70 from 49 balls and his opening partner Mohammad Rizwan finished unbeaten on 79. Mohammed Hafeez then joined the run-fest by clouting 62 from 23 balls as Pakistan totalled a massive 189 for two.

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The Namibian pace attack led by left-arm quickie Ruben Trumpelmann silenced the Pakistani batsmen by allowing just 26 runs over the first six overs. But that’s when Rizwan and Babar decided to put their feet on the pedal and open up. The two thrilled the pro-Pakistani crowd by piling on 130 runs in the last 10 overs and even though the Namibians flattered themselves by scoring 70 for two after 10 overs they were no match for the potent Pakistani attack and stumbled to 144 for five. Pakistan ends its Super 12 run by facing Scotland in Sharjah on Sunday.

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Rizwan, who was declared man of the match for his 50-ball unbeaten 79, said his team was confident it can beat any team in the semis. “We don’t see the rival team,” said the wicket-keeper. “Whoever comes in the semi-finals we can take them on and the way our team is doing we will win that as well.”

With four wins in four matches high-flying Pakistan’s next opponent will be the runner-up in Group A and that’s likely to be Australia or South Africa.

The victory over Bangladesh was South Africa’s third in four matches and it next faces England in its final group match. That will be a tough one as England and Pakistan are the only two unbeaten teams left. The Proteas must beat England on Saturday to advance and that’s going to be a tough one.

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The Proteas will depend on their ace speed-merchants Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje to produce yet another clinical performance against England as they displayed versus Bangladesh. Nortje, possibly the fastest bowler in the competition stunned the Tigers with a haul of three wickets for eight runs and Rabada weighed in with a career-best T20 analysis of three for 20 as Bangladesh was skittled for a meagre 84. The Proteas recovered from 33 for three to finish on 86 four with skipper Temba Bavuma carrying his bat for 31 off 28 balls. “I bowled three overs upfront and there was a bit of bounce, a bit of seam movement and some swing,’’ said Rabada. “The conditions were in my favour and all I had to do was get the ball in the right area.

“It feels good to contribute to the team’s success, I’ll take it but it feels good to take wickets, especially up front in the powerplay and making inroads – it’s what I strive to do.”

India meets Afghanistan on Wednesday and the Afghanis fancy their chances of defeating a demoralized India.

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