It was heartbreak for Bangladesh in Palmerston North, as Pakistan staged a spectacular comeback to snatch a penultimate-ball victory from the jaws of defeat. Chasing 251 to maintain their 100% record and top Group D, Pakistan seemed to be going down when they lost their sixth wicket at 199, with 21 balls to go. But Mohammad Waqas who came in at number eight had other ideas, smashing two sixes and three fours in his 14-ball 34 that turned the match on its head in less than 15 manic minutes. The win put Bangladesh out of the tournament, while West Indies qualified at their expense to the quarters.
The day had begun well for Bangladesh, whose decision to bat was vindicated by a strong batting show. Openers Anamul Haque and Amit Majumder laid the foundation with a steady stand of 92 in 23.1 overs. Anamul carried on his good form in the series, before he fell for 55. Mominul Haque kept the Bangladesh flag flying in the middle overs and set them up for a strong finish, which was provided by captain Mahmudul Hasan who slammed 63 at close to run-a-ball. Shabbir Rahman upped the ante with Hasan, striking two sixes and two fours in his 34. Alauddin Babu who came in for the last ball of the innings smote a six to take his side to 250.
Pakistan employed a watchful approach to their chase, with Babar Azam and Ahmed Shehzad cutting out the risks in their steady 104-run opening stand, before Shehzad fell for 52. When Rameez Aziz fell at 113 in the 32nd over, Mahmudul Hasan had choked the innings of all momentum and Pakistan were in desperate need of a move-on. Azam provided the impetus in the company of his captain Azeem Ghummam, adding 60 in 56 balls. Bangladesh then hit back hard, removing both batsmen without addition to the score. Pakistan faltered further, losing two more wickets as their victory-hopes dimmed. But Waqas played out a script of his own, with a dramatic twist in the end.
"We thought we might be losing the game," said Pakistan captain Azeem Ghumman. "But Waqas kept telling me that he was confident that he could score the runs. It was incredible - it turned from the impossible to the possible. Waqas really played well, the guy was confident and he showed it. It was the best debut by anyone."
Last-over thrillers seemed to be the order of the day, as Australia and South Africa played out another nail-biter at Queenstown Events Centre. Australia's decision to bat first ran into rough weather when they lost Tom Beaton cheaply to Graham Hume. Mitchell Marsh made light of the loss to give his side a good start, with a stroke-filled 26 before Hume struck timber for the second time in the day. That was the last success for South Africa for over 25 overs as Alex Keath and Jason Floros added 127 runs to set the platform for a sizeable score. Keath was more circumspect in his approach, hitting 64 off 97 balls before he was dismissed, while Floros reached 96 off the same number of deliveries. He was denied a well-deserved hundred by Hume who finished with fine figures of 3 for 35. Tim Armstrong hustled 48 with three sixes to take his side to 276.
South Africa's chase was led by Dominic Hendricks, who got them off to a flier in the company of Josh Richards, as they added 65 in lesser than ten overs. Stephan Smith kept up the momentum with Hendricks after Richards' dismissal, as South Africa seemed to be on course. Despite two quick wickets, Hendricks joined hands with Malcolm Nofal to add 49 and reclaim ascendancy. Kane Richardson and Keath kept the fight going for Australia, as wickets fell at regular intervals. Hendricks dismissal, four short of a hundred, sparked some panic in the South African ranks. Cody Chetty and Kirk Wernars fell within the space of two runs, with the target still 54 runs away. With the run-rate under reasonable control, Dale Deeb, Jerry Nqolo and Hume played sensible hands to take their side home with two balls to spare. The result of the match was of little consequence, with both sides already having booked their places in the last eight.
The winning captain Josh Richards was relieved to end on the winning side, despite the match being only of academic interest from a qualification point of view.. "It was close - Australia batted pretty well," he said. "I think in the batting we had it pretty much wrapped up with only four or five down, but then we had a few soft dismissals so it was closer than it should have been. The guys batted well today - it was good that they managed to bring it through even under pressure."
Meanwhile, in another contest between the best two teams in a group, New Zealand emerged comfortable victors as they beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets at Village Green. The hosts took the first spot on the group's points table, thanks largely to an impressive bowling effort from fast bowler Logan van Beek and offspinner Tim Johnston, who grabbed three wickets each. Sri Lanka's failure to measure up to the bowling was underlined by the fact that just three batsmen managed to reach double-figures. Rumesh Buddika contributed 39 and Kithuruwan Vithanage chipped in with 35 to lend some stability to the innings after a poor start. Their dismissals triggered another collapse but a fighting 69 from Dhanushka Gunathilleke, who struck six fours and two sixes in his counterattack and added 59 for the last wicket, pushed the score up to a more respectable 195.
But the effort proved terribly inadequate, for New Zealand's batsmen chased down the target with ease. Opener Harry Boam struck a patient 85 and was aided with some aggression at the other end from Jimmy Neesham (47), who ensured the scoring rate didn't dip. The hosts notched up their win in the 44th over to qualify for the knockout phase with plenty of confidence behind their backs. Sri Lanka, having finished second with two wins in three games, have also gone through.
Man of the match Boam was happy with his match-winning performance. "I found it a little bit tough early on and during the middle Sri Lanka bowled really well, but I had a bit of freedom later on and that was pleasing. Overall I was thrilled I stuck to my game plan when it got a bit tough, and didn't throw my wicket away when it was a bit slow. Today was a real test for us so it was nice to win and keep the momentum going."