by Steve Canavan, BBC Sport
Former champions Pakistan survived a scare to pull off a dramatic 20-run victory over Zimbabwe and record their first win at the 2015 World Cup.
Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq’s stubborn 73 and a fiery half-century from pace bowler Wahab Riaz helped the 1992 winners recover from 4-2 to reach 235-7.
Brendan Taylor’s 50 looked to have put Zimbabwe on course for a famous win.
But Mohammad Irfan, with career-best one-day international figures of 4-30, and Riaz (4-45) won it for Pakistan.
Riaz became the first Pakistani to score a fifty and take four wickets in the same World Cup match – and only the eighth cricketer to achieve the feat.
And victory was important for Misbah’s men, who, after heavy defeats by India and the West Indies, would have faced an uphill battle to progress to the quarter-finals had they lost again.
“It was really tough because it was a make or break game for us,” said the Pakistan captain. “You can’t believe how happy we are because we were out of the tournament if we’d lost this game.”
Despite a backdrop of fierce criticism from the public and former players back home – and with chief selector Moin Khan forced to return from the World Cup after visiting a casino – Pakistan posted their highest score of the tournament so far, though their innings got off to a wretched start.
After winning the toss and choosing to bat, Pakistan were rocking at 1-1 and 4-2 as Tendai Chatara claimed the wickets of openers Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad.
But skipper Misbah played a vital innings, steadying the ship as wickets regularly fell around him – including two in one over when Williams dismissed Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi in the space of three balls. Afridi, celebrating his 35th birthday, went for a duck.
Only a late flurry from Riaz – his 54 coming from 55 balls – injected some urgency into the Pakistan innings and gave them a meaningful total to defend.
Zimbabwe lost Sikander Raza and Chamu Chibhabha cheaply – Irfan taking both – but Taylor’s half-century and Sean Williams’ 33 from 32 balls took them to 128-3 and appeared to put them on course for victory.
However, Riaz repeated his batting heroics with the ball, sharing eight wickets with fellow left-arm paceman Irfan as Zimbabwe crumbled.
Injured captain Elton Chigumbura, who was helped off the field with a suspected quadricep tear while fielding, tried valiantly to steer Zimbabwe to victory but was last man out for a run-a-ball 35.
“It is always disappointing to lose a game like this when you feel you have a chance to win,” said Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura.
“Our weakness has been that we have not had one guy scoring a hundred or batting through the innings.”
While Zimbabwe will be frustrated not to have registered only a fourth ODI win over Pakistan, Misbah’s team now head into their next Pool B game against the United Arab Emirates on 4 March with renewed hope of making the last eight.