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Pakistan tops 300 runs, thrashes UAE; real test still to come

With 10 days remaining in the month-long pool stage of the Cricket World Cup, 1992 champion Pakistan found form in time for the second half of the tournament.

After incurring big losses to archrival India and the West Indies, Pakistan recovered with victories over Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates to level its win-loss record at 2-2. The win Wednesday came at Napier, New Zealand, where Pakistan scored 339-6 — the first time it has topped 300 runs at the tournament — before restricting the UAE to 210-8 for a 129-run victory.

Just how much improvement has been made will be tested in Pakistan’s two remaining matches, though, against South Africa on Saturday in Auckland, and against Ireland in Adelaide on March 15. Any chance Pakistan has of making the quarterfinals will rest on a win in at least one of those games, and it might have to win both depending on other results.

Opener Ahmed Shehzad top-scored before being run out seven runs short of Pakistan’s first cup century in eight years, while Shaiman Anwar led the UAE with 62.

“Everyone contributed, and we pushed hard,” man-of-the-match Shehzad said. “Very happy to see some momentum before our next big game against South Africa.”

Australia played the second match Wednesday in the western city of Perth against Afghanistan, attempting to overcome a one-wicket loss last weekend to co-host New Zealand that left the world’s top-ranked ODI team in fourth place in Pool A.

Australia put itself in a great position to do so, scoring a World Cup-record 417-6 after being sent in to bat, and after the home side dropped struggling all-rounder Shane Watson. After the early loss of Aaron Finch for 4, opener David Warner blazed 178, while Steve Smith added 95, and Glenn Maxwell 88.

The Australian total eclipsed the 413-5 posted by India over Bermuda at the 2007 World Cup, the previous highest tournament total.

On Thursday in Nelson, New Zealand, Scotland will have another chance to win its first ever cup match and escape last place in Pool A.

Its opponent Bangladesh, however, is vying for a quarterfinal place, and is in third place in the pool, equal on three points with Australia but with a slightly better run rate. With one win to its credit — a 105-run victory over Afghanistan — and shared points with Australia from a washed-out match in Brisbane, Bangladesh could take a major step toward the last eight with a win.

Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza said his squadexpects to win” against Scotland and, while a loss to Sri Lanka was a setback, it remained confident of reaching the quarterfinals. Bangladesh needs full points at Nelson, as it has tough matches remaining against England and South Africa.

“We have a great chance to go through to the quarterfinals,” he said. “If we can play better cricket here, hopefully the confidence we can take into the England match.”

Elsewhere, Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura was injured and won’t play against Ireland at Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Saturday. Chigumbura tore a left quadriceps muscle while fielding in a 20-run loss to Pakistan last weekend.