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Nazir ton leads Pakistan to victory

Pakistan 349 (Nazir 160) beat Zimbabwe 99 (Afridi 3-20) by 93 runs (D/L method)

Imran Nazir's destructive career-best 160 was the centrepiece of Pakistan's defiant 93-run victory over Zimbabwe under the Duckworth-Lewis method. It was a day full of emotion as they took the field for the first time since the death of Bob Woolmer, none more so than when Inzamam-ul-Haq's final ODI knock ended and he walked off in tears. Pakistan powered to their highest World Cup total before Zimbabwe, already in a hopeless position, collapsed in a heap after a lengthy rain delay, in the process confirming Ireland's place in the Super Eights.

Whether the motivation came from playing for pride, their coach or their captain, Pakistan put in a proud display. In a fitting finish Inzamam took the final catch, off surprise wicket-taker Mohammad Yousuf, and the team broke out into smiles. The captain led his players off and took the applause of a small crowd. It was a brief moment of enjoyment during a dark period.

Nazir's blistering century set a series of landmarks. It was comfortably the highest score of the tournament - overtaking Jacques Kallis's 128 against Netherlands - and is also the highest individual ODI total in West Indies. The eight sixes he struck equals the World Cup record for a batsman's innings, set by Ricky Ponting in the 2003 final against India at Johannesburg.

From a coincidental perspective it was Nazir's second ODI ton, his first also coming against Zimbabwe in the Caribbean, during the 2000-01 tri-series. Nearly seven years have elapsed since and Nazir has been in and out of the team. When he returned in South Africa it was after an absence of two years, but this effort should ensure he is part of whatever team Pakistan rebuild when they return home.

He began the innings in an aggressive, but controlled, manner as Pakistan juggled their batting order and used Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik in the first three. Both came and went after brief efforts as Nazir passed fifty off 57 balls. Then the acceleration came as three figures arrived from 95 deliveries, although he was dropped by Friday Kasteni on 81 at deep square-leg. Prosper Utseya and Sean Williams felt the full force of his bat, but none of the bowlers escaped, especially when his third fifty took just 21 balls. With him past 150 and eight overs to go, the first double century in ODIs was for the taking before one strike didn't find the middle and was well held by Stuart Matsikenyeri at extra cover running backwards.

The effect of the past few days on Pakistan was clear when Inzamam came in at No. 4 and he appeared intent on leaving a mark for Woolmer in his final innings. With utmost professionalism he set about batting, stamping his authority with a straight six off Utseya and another over midwicket off Williams. When a couple of shots landed short of fielders it appeared it might be his day but then he picked out cover. Every Zimbabwe player ran up to shake his hand and the moment got to Inzamam as his Pakistan team-mates formed a guard of honour as he walked off.

His stand with Nazir brought 70 in 10 overs and, after a rare failure for Yousuf, Younis Khan joined in a partnership of 82 in less than 10 overs for the fifth wicket. All the batsmen played with freedom although the lower order fell away until Rao Iftikar's thumping 16-ball 32. Zimbabwe's bowlers showed spirit but their limitations were cruelly exposed.

The batting fared no better, in fact providing an ever starker reminder of Zimbabwe's problems. The collapse started with just the second ball as Vusi Sibanda drove limply to point. Chamu Chibhahba didn't help his own cause, trying to charge Umar Gul the ball after taking a painful blow on the hand and edging to Inzamam at second slip and he claimed a second catch when Friday Kasteni was beaten for pace by Mohammad Sami.

A heavy downpour sent the players off for around two hours, but relented just in time to finish the innings when it was reduced to 20 overs. On resumption Zimbabwe needed 163 off 58 balls and both teams appeared keen to get it over and done with. The spinners bagged themselves a few wickets - Shahid Afridi reaching 200 in ODIs - between a flurry of sixes as the batsmen swung without too much care.



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