’Predictably unpredictable’ Pakistan faces South Africa test

Updated 06 March 2015

’Predictably unpredictable’ Pakistan faces South Africa test

AUCKLAND: Pakistan hope their resurgence in the World Cup continues against South Africa at Eden Park on Saturday with the Proteas’ coach warning of the Asians’ “predictable unpredictability.”
The 1992 champions need a victory to keep their hopes alive for a quarterfinal place after losing their first two games before winning the next two.
Standing between Pakistan and a place in the next round are South Africa and then a dangerous Ireland side but coach Waqar Younis believes his team was peaking at the right time.
“We have picked up momentum in the last two games,” said Waqar, after his side beat the United Arab Emirates by 129 runs in Napier.
Waqar admitted his team needs to lift its game more against a big team like South Africa who have won three of their four matches, scoring 400-plus totals in the last two.
“We need to win against a big team like South Africa to tell the world that we belong at the World Cup and we have done it before,” said Waqar of Pakistan’s 2-1 one-day series win in South Africa late in 2013.
But Pakistan have never beaten South Africa in a World Cup match, losing to their African rivals in 1992, 1996 and 1999.
Pakistan will also hope their spearhead Mohammad Irfan regains full fitness after injuring a hip muscle in the match against UAE.
Although Waqar was confident the fast bowler would be fit, the seven-foot Irfan will be assessed during Friday’s practice session.
Opener Nasir Jamshed has scores of nought, one and four in the last three matches but Pakistan’s reluctance to try Sarfraz Ahmed at top of the order may save Jamshed.
Pakistan will seek a huge improvement in their batting against a fierce South African attack, which includes Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott.
The pace attack is backed by wicket-taking leg-spinner Imran Tahir who has nine wickets in four matches.
South Africa, who can make the quarterfinals with a win, will have JP Duminy fit again after missing the last two games due to a side strain. He is likely to replace Farhan Behardien.
“A guy like JP will definitely get back in the mix. He has been one of our best players over a period of time,” coach Russell Domingo said, who was cautious over the return of seamer Vernon Philander.
“We need to make sure Vernon is 100 percent ready to go because we need to be careful with a hamstring strain with the important stage of the competition still to come.”
Domingo said South Africa can challenge Pakistan with AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis all scoring hundreds in the last two games.
De Villiers was in astounding touch during his 66-ball 162 against the West Indies on February 27 — the fastest 150 in one-day internationals.
“They’ve got some great bowlers. The tall man Irfan has been bowling really well at the moment and I think Wahab Riaz has bowled the quickest ball in the competition thus far — 154,” said Domingo.
“They are definitely a bowling attack that needs to be respected and we need to take care against them,” said Domingo, who believes chasing a target is Pakistan’s weakness.
“Pakistan’s record of chasing scores — I don’t think they have chased over 260 in the past six years — is a defining factor in terms of winning the game,” Domingo said.
“Pakistan’s unpredictability is not a challenge because they are predictably unpredictable, if that makes sense. Their strength lies in the predictability of their unpredictability,” Domingo said.


Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

Updated 28 January 2020

Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

  • Barty aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open
  • She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major

MELBOURNE, Australia: Top-ranked Ash Barty is a step closer to ending a long drought for Aussies at the national championship.
Barty saved set points in the 11th game and another in the tiebreaker before seizing the momentum against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a 7-6 (6), 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena. She next faces No. 14 Sofia Kenin, who reached the semifinals at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 78-ranked Ons Jabeur.
Barty fended off eight of the nine break-point chances she faced in the first set before finally getting the upper hand when she won a 22-shot rally, defending for much of it just to stay in the point, at 3-2 in the tiebreaker.
After clinching the first set in 69 minutes, she went on a roll to take a 4-0 lead in the second and take all the momentum away from Kvitova, who beat Barty here at the same stage last year before losing the final to Naomi Osaka.
Barty rebounded from that to win her first major title at the French Open, where she beat Kenin in the fourth round. Until she arrived in Australia, Kenin’s run at Roland Garros — which included a third-round upset over Serena Williams — was her best at a Grand Slam.
There’s a lot of local expectation riding on Barty, who is aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open. The first major of the decade may see the end of the 42-year wait, and an Australian man hasn’t won since 1976. Barty is already the first Australian woman since 1984 to reach the semifinals of the home Open.
Barty doesn’t expect to feel the pressure. She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major.
“I’m not going to have anything but a smile on my face when I walk out onto this court,” Barty said of her next match.
Kenin and Jabeur were both into the quarterfinals for the first time at a major.
For Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in Florida, the degree of difficulty will only increase.
“I’m in the semis,” she said, when asked for her preference of semifinal rival. “Anyone I play, they’re playing really well.”
Kenin is playing her best tennis, too. Her best previous run at Melbourne Park ended in the second round, when she lost to Simona Halep last year.
She finished last year ranked 14th, and could match Barty in one category: they were tied for most hard-court wins on the women’s tour last year with 38 wins each.
Kenin’s run here included a comeback win in the third round against 15-year-old Coco Gauff, when she made only nine unforced errors across the second and third sets.
In the second set against Jabeur, she saved three break points in a long sixth game, then broke serve in the seventh game to set up the win.
“It was a tough moment,” Kenin said. “I didn’t know it was 10 minutes (but) it was pretty long, the game. After that I got my momentum.”
Jabeur, a 25-year-old Tunisian, was the first Arab woman to make it to the last eight at a major.
“Ï think I proved that I can be in the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam, even if I have a lot of things to improve probably physically and mentally,” she said. “But I’m happy that I pushed through a lot of things. I proved to myself that I could do a lot of great things.”
In later men’s quarterfinals, 20-time major winner Roger Federer was playing 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren, and seven-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic had a night match against Milos Raonic of Canada.