Waqar Younis walks out of press conference following Pakistan’s win over South Africa

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Pakistan coach Waqar Younis.

Waqar Younis abruptly ended his post-match press conference on Saturday after a Pakistani TV journalist insisted on getting his reaction on an alleged showdown between him and Sarfraz Ahmed as the reason for keeping the wicketkeeper-batsman out of the team.

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Sarfraz was declared Man of the Match for his innings of 49, followed by six catches behind the wickets, in his first match of the tournament. Pakistan experimented with different opening combinations in the first four matches – using Younis Khan and then Nasir Jamshed as Ahmed Shehzad’s partners – but failed to get their innings off to a good start.

On the eve of the match, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq and Waqar had said that the reason they preferred Jamshed ahead of Sarfraz was because they felt the former had a more solid technique for an opening batsman. And because Umar Akmal could also keep wicket, it opened up a slot for the management to go for an extra batsman.

Waqar had finished answering in English but, while replying to urdu questions, lost his cool when the journalist first insisted that there was politics involved in not allowing Sarfraz to play, and that the coach should take the blame for it.

“There is no politics involved. You are the one giving it a political twist. We have a squad of 15, and we have tried to play the best 11,” said Waqar to the first question.

“Why should I take the blame? After all, Nasir Jamshed is also part of the team.”

And when asked for his reaction on an alleged bust-up inside the dressing room between him and Sarfraz, Waqar just smiled and replied: “I think it is time to end the press conference. Because I don’t have any answers for such a stupid question.”

The team has denied that any such incident took place between Waqar and Sarfraz.

Earlier, Waqar said: “Regarding Sarfraz, I never doubted his abilities. We always knew how good he is. It was just regarding his opening that I was talking about the last time around. But he’s done a superb job today.

“You can’t ask for more if someone who is a regular wicketkeeper, and he can keep the wicket and  also opened really well. But don’t forget, Umar Akmal has also done a superb job in the last couple of games. He’s had five catches in the last game he played.

“So, happy with both. They’re both doing a wonderful job. It’s the belief that matters the most, and I think both of them have got the belief with the gloves on. And Umar, of course, is going to be handy in the field also.”

Waqar was obviously delighted with the performance of his bowlers, but did not get critical about the batting, which at one stage looked capable of going close to a total of 300, but eventually set a target of 232 after losing last five wickets for 10 runs.

I think we bowled extremely well. We were right on top of the game. We bowled with gas. We bowled some real pace and with real purpose,” said the coach.

“As for batting, look, you’re not going to get everything, every day. Yes, it was not the best end to the innings, but we needed a good start with the ball and that’s what Irfan provided. We knew we had to get them out to win this game.

“I thought we batted with purpose at the top. We played with aggression. We made use of their fifth bowler. We always knew that they are weak when it comes to the fifth bowler, so we made full use of it. So our plans did work.”

Waqar said the win was a huge boost to their confidence.

I think we still need to win the last game to get to the quarterfinal. But, yeah, we have started playing good, aggressive cricket, which I think Pakistan cricket has been known for in the past,” he added.

“We have started finding the right combination, and people have started believing in themselves. I think this was a key. I’m very thrilled, very happy, but it’s a long way to go.”

Pakistan’s final group match is against Ireland on March 15.

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#CWC15: New Zealand need to maintain momentum – Daniel Vettori

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Eyeing another win: New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori not expecting too much changes in the team.

New Zealand’s perfect progress to date at the World Cup means they have the freedom to consider selection options in their penultimate Pool A match, against Afghanistan in Napier.

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But evergreen spinner Daniel Vettori does not appear to be expecting too many changes to be sanctioned by captain Brendon McCullum and coach Mike Hesson.

The Kiwis have not been in action since making it four wins out of four, albeit by a solitary wicket, in a titanic match against fellow co-hosts Australia in Auckland last Saturday.

That break is enough to persuade Vettori there is no way New Zealand management will be taking too many chances against Afghanistan, who were trounced by Australia in midweek.

“The fact is most of the guys won’t have played for a week anyway, so everyone’s in that situation where they’re ready for some game time,” said the slow left-armer, who could be replaced by Nathan McCullum, with batsman Tom Latham and veteran pacer Kyle Mills also set for starts.

“Whichever way Mike and Brendon go, the whole (squad) is ready for it.”

Vettori has a healthy respect for Afghanistan, adding: “They have a balanced line-up and…a really good team. Frontline bowling will be difficult, and they have some very good batters.

“It’s been a long time between games (for us), and it’s something that we are not used to. 

"We play every couple of days – so once a week is a little bit of a challenge.”

Afghanistan coach Andy Moles is well aware his team face another tough task too.

He concedes some of the pace bowlers began to bowl consistently too short against Australia once they saw the bounce available in Perth and felt the need to try something different against David Warner.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are disciplined in the areas we bowl,” he said. “They don’t do it on purpose, obviously – but it’s disappointing.”

The most important message he will be delivering pre-match, however, is for Afghanistan to stick to their attacking instincts.

He added: “I’ll be doing my best to make sure they don’t go into their shells.

"I keep telling them they must express themselves and play with the freedom that Afghanistan cricket has been known for.

“New Zealand have got off to a great start – winning all their games … playing at home.

"They’re full of confidence. We have to make sure we are ready for what we know is going to be a tough examination.”

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Pakistan beat South Africa in rain-hit #CWC15 thriller

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Sohail Khan (r) celebrates taking the wicket of AB de Villiers.

Pakistan clinched a thrilling 29-run win over South Africa at the World Cup on Saturday to put themselves on course for the quarter-finals.

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Chasing just 232 to win under the Duckworth-Lewis method at Eden Park in Auckland, South Africa, who would have been assured of a quarter-final slot had they won, were bowled out for 202 despite captain AB de Villiers’ valiant 77.

Rahat Ali grabbed a career-best three for 40, with fellow left-arm seamers Mohammad Irfan (three for 52) and Wahab Riaz (three for 45) as South Africa were dismissed in 33.3 overs in a game which ended in a torrential downpour.

The result left South Africa and Pakistan both on six points and well-placed for the quarter-finals.

Pakistan had suffered a trademark batting collapse following two rain-breaks in Auckland and were dismissed for just 222, having been 92 for one and 156 for three.

The match was twice held up for rain and the second stoppage did little for Pakistan’s fragile confidence as they lost five wickets for the addition of just 25 runs.

Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq top scored with 56 off 86 balls – his fourth half-century in five matches at this World Cup and the 42nd of his career – as the 40-year-old went past 5,000 one-day international runs, although he still awaits a first century.

Shahid Afridi added a brisk 22, passing 8,000 ODI runs but Pakistan were left kicking themselves after squandering an impressive start which had seen Sarfraz Ahmed mark his first game of the tournament with 49 before he was run out and veteran Younis Khan hit 37.

Sarfraz later claimed a record-equalling six catches behind the stumps and was named man-of-the-match.

“I am very thankful to the world and Pakistan for this opportunity,” said Sarfraz who replaced Nasir Jamshed at the top of the order. “This is my World Cup debut, but Mushtaq Ahmed (one of the team’s coaching staff) encouraged me and told me to go out and enjoy myself.”

Fast bowler Dale Steyn led a disciplined South Africa bowling performance with three for 30 and also held a brilliant, flying catch to get rid of Ahmed Shehzad.

Fellow seamer Kyle Abbott took two for 45 despite being expected to be dropped to accommodate a returning Vernon Philander.

When they batted, South Africa lost out-of-form opener Quinton de Kock for a second ball duck which followed scores of 7, 7, 12 and 1. But Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis comfortably put on 67 for the second wicket before Pakistan sensationally lived up to South Africa coach Russell Domingo’s pre-match assessment of the 1992 champions’ “predictable unpredictability”.

South Africa conclude their pool programme against the UAE in Wellington on Thursday, while Pakistan face Ireland in Adelaide next Sunday, the same day that the West Indies play the UAE in Napier.

India’s four-wicket win against the West Indies in Perth on Friday kept the defending champions top of Pool B with eight points from four victories in four matches and assured them of one of the quarter-final places. 

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