Pakistan recover to set New Zealand target of 263

Pakistan’s Hasan Ali takes the catch of New Zealand’s captain Kane Williamson during the first one day international cricket match between New Zealand and Pakistan. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2018

Pakistan recover to set New Zealand target of 263

HAMILTON, New Zealand: Pakistan bounced back from a horror start to set New Zealand a competitive target of 263 in the fourth one-day international in Hamilton on Tuesday.
Mohammad Hafeez top scored with 81 as the tourists’ batsmen finally managed to notch some runs, with Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail and captain Sarfraz Ahmed also posting half centuries.
Paceman Tim Southee led the New Zealand attack with three for 44 and skipper Kane Williamson took two for 32.
Pakistan finished their 50-over innings at 262 for eight, thanks to some big-hitting from Hafeez, who smashed 22 from the final over.
It was a gutsy fightback from a side that was reeling at 11 for two in the fifth over and looked in danger of another humiliation after being skittled for 74 in their last outing.
Already 3-0 in the five-match series, Pakistan had little to lose and promoted hard-hitting allrounder Faheem Ashraf to open the batting in the search for runs.
The gamble backfired when Faheem departed for one after edging a swinging Southee delivery to the wicketkeeper in the third over, bringing Babar Azam to the crease.
He lasted only nine balls before becoming Southee’s second victim, trudging back to the pavilion with only three runs to his name.
Fakhar Zaman was lucky not to follow him on seven when he spooned the ball to mid-wicket, only for Colin Munro to drop the chance.
Fakhar made the most of his life, bringing up his half century off 68 balls as part of a productive 86-run partnership with Haris Sohail before departing for 54.
Haris, returning to the ODI arena for the first time since 2015, also failed to push on after reaching 50, smashing the ball to Henry Nicholls on the boundary as he looked for a big six.
Incoming batsman Shoaib Malik had an injury scare as he ran into the path of fielder Munro’s throw while trying to scamper back to his crease and the ball hit him flush on the head.
Shoaib, who was not wearing a helmet, fell down onto the wicket but was able to continue after consultations with team medics, although he was dismissed in the next over.
Pakistan were 175 for five with 10 overs remaining before Sarfraz and partner Hafeez stepped up the pace.
Sarfraz Ahmed reached 51 off 46 balls while Hafeez’s 81 included five fours and four sixes.

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.

BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.

UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE

The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.

BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.