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 in Adelaide on Sunday.
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. Wahab Riaz was the most successful bowler for Pakistan, returning figures of 3/54, while there were two wickets apiece for Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali.
Opting to bat after winning the toss, Porterfield led by example and defied the Pakistani bowlers with elan at the Adelaide Oval. But even as the Irish skipper stood firm, other top batsmen such as Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien failed to prosper.