Pakistan finds new star in keeper Sarfraz Ahmed at World Cup
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Pakistan has found a new star in wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed after his stunning performance against South Africa in which he took a world-record equaling six catches and also appeared to be the team’s most-dangerous batsman with a big-hitting 49.
The 29-run win by Pakistan in its World Cup Pool B match has renewed its hopes in the tournament after it began with two losses and appeared in danger of exiting before the quarterfinals.
Sarfraz was only brought into the starting 11 in Saturday’s game at Eden Park as a replacement for struggling opener Nasir Jamshed. In its previous matches, Pakistan had relied on makeshift keeper Umar Akmal, who had dropped a number of catches but whose batting skills were considered vital.
Pakistan might be rethinking that strategy now — although coach Waqar Younis was quick to say he thought both keepers were doing a “wonderful job.”
“Regarding Sarfraz, I never doubted his abilities,” said coach said. “We always knew how good he is. Just regarding his opening, I was just talking about it the last time around. You know, makeshift opener, but he’s done a superb job.”
Sarfraz’s man-of-the-match performance included a spectacular one-handed catch to dismiss South Africa opener Hashim Amla, who had looked in complete control with nine boundaries in his 38 before he edged a ball behind.
Sarfraz was the key in what turned out to be a low-scoring but exciting game.
In Pakistan’s innings, he opened and helped get the team off to its best start of the tournament, putting on 30 runs for the first wicket. After a cautious start, he began to take control of the bowling, smashing three sixes in one over of J.P. Duminy.
But in the next over, when he was on 48, Sarfraz hit the ball to backward square and pushed for a second run to bring up his 50 only to be run out by David Miller. His 49 came off as many balls and included five fours as well as his three sixes.
His innings gave an early boost to a team which has been criticized for batting too slowly in the opening overs. He gave Pakistan another reason to get excited in the field as he held catch after catch.
The 27-year-old keeper began his international career in 2007 against India and he has been in and out of Pakistan’s one-day side ever since. In 2006, he was captain of the Pakistan team that won the Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
Sarfraz has played 37 one-day internationals and is averaging 25 with a strike rate of 86. He’s averaging 44 in test matches but has played just 13 of them.
His six catches was the 15th time that feat has been achieved in ODIs, including six times by Australia’s Adam Gilchrist. Another person to have done it is Sarfraz’s opposite number in Saturday’s match, South Africa keeper Quinton de Kock.