Pakistan’s kept their chances of making the semi-finals alive by handing New Zealand a 6-wicket defeat at Edgbaston, Birmingham on Wednesday.
Pakistan had ended New Zealand’s unbeaten run during their title-winning run in a must-win match against the Black Caps and history repeated itself on Wednesday as Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men rode on Babar Azam’s class-filled hundred and Shaheen Afridi’s game-changing spell to collect 2 points. Pakistan moved to the 6th spot on the 10-team World Cup 2019 points table and are tied on points (7 from 7 matches) with 5th-placed Bangladesh.
Chasing a tricky total of 238 on the Edgbaston pitch that offered a lot of assistance to new-ball bowlers and spinners, Pakistan were jolted early as they lost aggressive opener Fakhar Zaman for 9. Fellow opener Imam-ul-Haq fell for 19 but Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez stitched a 64-run stand for the 3rd wicket to put Pakistan’s chase on track.
Babar and Hafeez survived a top-class spell of left-arm spin bowling from Mitchell Santner but Hafeez fell to part-timer Kane Williamson in the New Zealand captain’s first over.
Babar then joined hands with Haris Sohail who continued from where he left against South Africa. Haris’ positive intent rubbed off on Babar as the duo made light work of the New Zealand bowling challenge. The two batsmen oozed class and looked assured as Williamson ran out of plans, much to the delight of the packed house at Edgbaston.
Haris Sohail and Babar Azam added a match-winning stand of 126 runs for the 4th wicket as Pakistan got to the total with 6 wickets and 6 balls to spare. Haris was run out on 68 when Pakistan needed just 2 runs in the penultimate over of the match.
Earlier in the day, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson won the toss and decided to bat in overcast conditions. But Mohammad Amir struck early to remove Martin Guptill for another duck and Shaheeh Shah Afridi then removed Colin Munro and the dangerous Ross Taylor in a terrific first spell.
Pakistan who needed to win all their games heron to stay in the hunt for a berth in the semi-finals were suddenly on fire. New Zealand, who had remained unbeaten looked vulnerable but they still had their skipper Kane Williamson to dig them out of trouble.
But Afridi was still to have a say in the game. Tom Latham fell to another sensational Afridi delivery and Pakistan were tottering at 46 for 4 in 12.3 overs. And when Williamson departed for 41 to the guile of Shadab Khan, Pakistan had every reason to hope.
New Zealand cricket has long grappled with the debate of whether to play an extra specialist bowler instead of their two all-rounders. On Wednesday, these two all-rounders came to the party for the Black Caps.
James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme were patient and then destructive in a 132-run stand for the 6th wicket. de Grandhomme was run out for 64 just when the pair was looking to up the ante but Neesham carried his bat to remain unbeaten on 97.
It was not an easy pitch to bat on. New Zealand suffered a few early setbacks but it was a heroic fightback by their lower order and this stand alone should put New Zealand in good stead for the rest of the World Cup.
Source : Various