Ireland's successful World Cup continues to blossom after their latest crucial victory against Zimbabwe in Hobart. It proved to be a tense finish though, as their opponents were beaten by just five runs, as they attempted to make the highest run chase in the history of the competition. Pakistan turned to their fast bowlers to upset the much-fancied South Africans and keep their quarter-final hopes very much alive, clinching a stunning 29-run victory over the Proteas.
Ireland are making a habit of being involved in nerve-jangling matches in this World Cup. Batting first against Zimbabwe they looked to have scored enough runs on 331-8, especially as it represented their highest ever ODI total. Former 36-year-old England international, but now firmly back in the Irish fold, Ed Joyce scored a fine 112 with Andy Balbirnie almost matching him with 97, before being run out. The wonderful 138-run third wicket partnership setting the Irish on their way to their big total.
Chasing a record score for the victory, Zimbabwe went agonisingly close to putting their names in the record books as Brendan Taylor scorched his way to 121 off 91 balls, with his four sixes keeping the crowd entertained. Sean Williams like Balbirnie before him, also went close to three figures with his knock of 96, sharing in a fourth-wicket stand that took them into a challenging position. It remained close right to the final over, with only seven runs required by the chasing team. Ireland clinically closed the match out though, as their bowlers instead took the remaining two wickets to fall, leaving Zimbabwe just short of their target on 326 all out. Alex Cusack (4-32) was the man with nerves of steel at the death.
Pakistan ensured that Pool B is bubbling up nicely to a grandstand finish, with five teams now chasing four qualifying places. South Africa must have thought that they had the measure of their rivals in Auckland, as they bowled them out for a relatively low score of 222 in 46.4 overs. Opener Sarfraz Ahmed scored a handy 49 before being run out, with captain Misbah-ul-Haq being the only batsman scoring over 50, with his useful knock of 56 in a low-scoring match. Dale Steyn (3-30) and Morne Morkel (2-25) were the pick of the Proteas' bowlers.
With rain interrupting the game, the target for the South Africans to chase was adjusted to 232, as the game became effectively a 47-over match instead of the full 50 overs. The chasing side looked to be in control of their own destiny at 67-1, but their opponents then utilised their left-arm pacemen to good effect, with Wahab Riaz (3-45), Rahat Ali (3-40) and Mohammad Irfan (3-52) combining well to reduce the innings to a disappointing 202 all out off 33.3 overs. The result was a 29-run defeat according to the always interesting Duckworth-Lewis method. Their dashing captain AB de Villiers did his best to keep his side's progress on target, scoring another fine innings of 77. #CricketIndia look most likely to qualify from the group, with a perfect 8 points from their four games so far. South Africa now edge Pakistan and Ireland only due to their vastly superior run rate, with all three teams now locked on 6 points. Zimbabwe went out of the tournament by losing to Ireland, but West Indies can still make it into the last-eight, despite sitting fifth on 4 points currently, as they will fancy their chances of beating bottom side UAE in their last group game. With Ireland yet to face India and Pakistan, it promises to go right to the final games in the group.