Haris Sohail (R) celebrates with teammate Imad Wasim after scoring a half-century at Lord's Cricket Ground. AFP
Haris Sohail boosted Pakistan's bid to avoid World Cup elimination with a blistering 89 in his side's 308 for seven against fellow strugglers South Africa on Sunday.
Sohail was making just his second appearance at this year's World Cup and his dashing display at Lord's suggested he should have been involved more often.
The 30-year-old, dropped following Pakistan's opener against the West Indies, made up for lost time as he demolished South Africa's beleaguered bowlers.
Hitting nine fours and three sixes in his 59-ball blitz, Sohail gave Pakistan a shot of adrenaline after Babar Azam's more sedate 69 laid the foundations.
With only one win apiece, Pakistan and South Africa both need a victory to keep alive their slender hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals via a top-four finish in the 10-team group stage.
Beaten by bitter rivals India in their last match, Pakistan's players spent the past week involved in a series of spats with frustrated fans both in person and on social media.
After Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed won the toss and decided to bat first, Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq lifted morale with a stand of 81 for the first wicket
Zaman slapped Kagiso Rabada's second ball of the match through the covers for a tone-setting four.
The green-shirt-clad Pakistan fans who made up the majority of the crowd were on their feet cheering when Zaman's effortless six off Lungi Ngidi made it 44-0 from the first six overs.
Zaman had a narrow escape when he slogged Chris Morris to Imran Tahir, who claimed he made the catch after running in from the boundary.
The umpires asked for a review that showed the Pakistan-born South African's fingers were not under the ball as it hit the turf.
Tahir was booed by Pakistan fans when he came on to bowl, but the leg-spinner got his revenge when Zaman attempted a bizarre scooped shot that saw him caught in the slips by Hashim Amla on 44.
Not surprisingly, Tahir's trademark celebration sprint around the pitch seemed a little more vigorous than usual.
Tahir was just getting warmed up and he produced a sublime catch off his own bowling to dismiss Imam for 44.
Lunging low to pluck the ball just before it hit the ground, Tahir was ecstatic as he blew kisses to his detractors in the crowd.
Tahir's 39th World Cup scalp made him South Africa's all-time leading wicket-taker in the tournament.
Mohammad Hafeez departed for 20, lbw to Aiden Markram, to leave Pakistan 143-3 in the 30th over.
That brought Sohail to the crease and his aggression, including a four and a six from successive Rabada deliveries, restored Pakistan's momentum.
Babar stepped on the gas as he went past 50, but he holed out to Ngidi on the boundary off Andile Phehlukwayo to end an 80-ball innings featuring seven fours.
Sohail smashed a four to reach his 50 in 38 balls and saw Pakistan through to the last over before mistiming a pull off Ngidi.
Azam's team won eight of the nine one-day internationals last year, including a 2-1 series win over a formidable Australia at home.
Pakistan kept their nerve to avoid a huge shock on Saturday, beating a spirited Afghan side by three wickets with just two balls to spare to keep their World Cup semi-final hopes alive.
"He chose the IPL and PSL, announced an early retirement and recused himself from the World Cup," said Akhtar in his video uploaded on Friday.
Mohammad Hafeez was the top scorer with a 62-ball 84 as Babar Azam (63 off 66) and captain Sarfraz Ahmed (55 of 44) also scored half centuries. England will need to pull off the highest successful run chase in World Cup history if they are to win this game.
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