Just as you thought we were going to witness the second upset of the World Cup, Shahid Afridi woke up! The Pakistani skipper picked up his second five wicket haul of the World Cup as the Canadian batsmen, after restricting the Pakistani batsmen to 184, failed to chase down the meagre total.
Afridi, as is usually the norm at the Premadasa, elected to bat after winning the toss but Hafeez and Shehzad continued their poor run in the tournament as they fell for 11 and 12 respectively. Younis struggled from the onset and his misery ended when he was trapped in front by Baidwan. Akmal, who rescued his team from similar situations a couple of times already, couldn’t get off the blocks and his 38 ball stay at the crease ended when he was snapped up by Cheema and Pakistan were 68/4 before they even realized it. Misbah, who must have got used to such situations by now, built a 72 run stand with Umar Akmal to give Pakistan some breathing space. But once the pair was dismissed by Balaji Rao, Pakistan were in real danger. Afridi, as he has done a million times before, threw his wicket away when they needed him the most and once Abdul Razzaq was given out L.B.W, Canada went for the kill and cleaned up the tail with Harvir Baidwan being the pick of the bowlers picking up three wickets for 35 runs.
185 runs to defend and with Shoaib Akhtar rested for the game, Pakistan had their task cut out. Razzaq and Gul got rid of the openers inside five overs as the Canadian middle order were put under pressure. Surkari, along with skipper Ashish Bagai, saw out the new ball and hung around as Canada set themselves up for overhauling the target. Afridi got rid of his opposite number but it required Saeed Ajmal, playing his first match of the World Cup in place of the injured Abdul Rehman, to separate Surkari and Hansra as the former was given out after Pakistan opted for the review. That was all Afridi needed as the remaining Canadian batsmen found his quicker ones too hot to handle as they collapsed faster than a pack of cards. Afridi picked up four wickets in his next four overs to finish with figures of 5/23, the best figures by a Pakistani in a World Cup eclipsing his own record, set ten days ago against Kenya. Afridi then effected a direct hit from mid-on to hit the final nail in the Canadian coffin as Pakistan won by 46 runs.
Their third consecutive victory in the tournament all but seals Pakistan’s spot in the quarterfinals but they would be worried about their lackluster batting performance which was eventually overshadowed by Afridi’s unplayable spell.