Sarfaraz Ahmed struck his maiden ODI hundred as Pakistan advanced to the cricket World Cup quarterfinals, knocking Ireland out with a seven-wicket triumph over the European giant-slayers in their final pool B match today.
Set a target of 238 by the Irish, Pakistan never looked in trouble and romped home with 3.5 overs to spare, putting up a rare clinical show in what has otherwise been a topsy-turvy campaign for them in the marquee event.
Sarfraz became the first Pakistan batsman after Imran Nazir (2007) to notch up a World Cup hundred as he slammed 101-run knock to cement his place after being kept out in the initial matches of the tournament. Pakistan will now face Australia in the last-eight stage on March 20 here after finishing third in their group with four wins out of six matches.
It was a thoroughly polished performance by a more-often-than-not mercurial team with Sarfaraz proving his worth yet again. The 27-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman shone bright with 124-ball knock, which was studded with six fours.
Opener Ahmed Shehzad was another notable contributor to the team’s cause with a 71-ball 63, which included seven hits to the fence.
Man-of-the-match Sarfaraz and Shehzad put together 120 runs for the opening wicket, laying the solid foundation for a smooth chase. For the bitterly disappointed Irish, who impressed one and all with lion-hearted performances all through, Alex Cusack was the most successful bowler with figures of 1/43 from his 10 overs.
Earlier, Irish captain William Porterfield made a composed century before Pakistan seamers staged a fightback to bowl out Ireland for 237 in the must-win game.The 30-year-old opening batsman Porterfield made 107, but the Pakistanis came back to snare five wickets conceding only 49 runs in the last 10 overs.