Black Caps’ unbeaten sequence broken by Pakistan in Edgbaston Thriller
With a semi-final spot still up for grabs, Pakistan successfully chased down a target of 238 with six wickets in hand. A majestic hundred from its star batsman, Babar Azam (101 not out), on a challenging surface, guided his side over the finish line, with just five balls to spare.
Pakistan 241-4 (49.1 overs) – (Babar Azam 101*, Haris Sohail 68)
New Zealand 237-6 (De Grandhomme 64, James Neesham 97*; Shaheen Afridi 3-28)
Result – Pakistan won by 6 wickets
A 126-run fourth-wicket stand in 23.4 overs, between Babar and equally determined, Haris Sohail (68) was the key to Pakistan’s victory. New Zealand it must be said put up a great fight after being in a perilous 83-5 at one stage to put up a decent total and then make Pakistan work for every run in its run chase.
History might have suggested Pakistan has pulled off some memorable victories against New Zealand but 2019 brought them up against an opposition which, unbeaten thus far in the World Cup, is on the verge of entering the semi-final stages.
The Pakistan contingent, sensing a must-win scenario for its team’s hopes of a semi-final slot, dominated the stands in Birmingham. The World Cup history favoured Pakistan who shattered Kiwis dream in 1992 by snatching a dramatic semi-final win in Auckland. In 1999, it was Shoaib Akhtar’s sizzling yorkers that earned his side a nine-wicket in the semi-final at Old Trafford in Manchester.
New Zealand, led by the ice cool Kane Williamson, is unbeaten in the World Cup and thus held a psychological advantage, going in its pool game against Pakistan, today. In the past Pakistan teams have nullified such talk by the sheer brilliance of its individuals. This particular squad sadly, we thought, was neither classy or hungry enough to upset the odds. But it did.
The present Pakistan team, led by Sarfraz Ahmed, is low on confidence and class and its present journey in the World Cup has lot to be desired for. A strong 15-man squad does not guarantee success unless the batting and bowling combinations are clicking and the fielding is of international standards. In its convincing win South Africa at Lord’s, three days ago, Pakistan’s catching was awful to say the least.
The cloud cover did not allow sun to come out at all at Edgbaston as both New Zealand and Pakistan, went into the match, unchanged. On a dry grassless wicket, New Zealand took the right option to bat first but Pakistan pacemen, geed up tremendous crowd support, had them reeling at 46-4 in the 13th over.
Once again Williamson was asked to rescue his side that had been ripped apart by a magnificent three-wicket spell from Shaheen Afridi. Williamson and James Neesham were engaged in a painfully slow rebuilding whilst adding just 37 runs in 13.5 overs before the captain was dismissed for 41 (69 balls, 4 fours) by a perfectly pitch leg-break from Shadab Khan.
At the halfway stage NZ were 79 for 4 and Pakistan stranglehold got even stronger with the wicket of Williamson (41) in over number 27. After his dismissal the two all-rounders – Neesham and Garndhomme – initially could not break free as Pakistan captain attacked with close-in fielders. At the end of 30 overs, the score was 94-5, with batsmen fighting desperately for a respectable total.
The sixth wicket stand continued to defy Pakistan bowling with some degree of freedom as Neesham brought up his fifty off 77 balls and New Zealand score reaching152-5 of 40 overs. The pair would go on to add132 runs before de Gandhomme was run out in the 48th over, for a priceless 64 for which he faced 71 balls, having hit 6 fours and a six.
Neesham, the top scorer, ended with a career-best undefeated 97 off 112 balls with 5 fours and 3 sixes. A pull six of the last ball of the innings off Wahab, carried the score to a respectable 237-6. Pakistan bowling stood up quite well in the third powerplay but could not stop 85 runs being scored, in the last 10 overs.
Pakistan’s top three batsmen held the key for a successful run chase and to lose both openers -Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq - by the 11th over, lifted New Zealand. The wicket required patience and risk-free batting for the ball was not coming to the bat. Both Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez (32), needed luck in their 3rd wicket stand worth 66 off 89 balls which carried Pakistan total to110-3 (25) at the half way stage of its innings.
In Haris, Babar found a partner, who was up to the challenge as they collected 50 runs off 73 balls, leaving Pakistan to get another 74 off the last 13 overs. A straight six off Boult by Haris showed the need for acceleration and Pakistan now required 55 off the last 10 overs. A boundary by skipper Sarfraz from a Ferguson full-toss of the first ball of the last over, triggered a noisy celebration at the ground and all around the world. Pakistan can not be written off, just as yet.
New Zealand team: Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, LRPL Taylor, Tom Latham, Colin De Grandhomme, James Neesham, Trent Boult, Matt Henry, Mitchell Santner, Lockie Ferguson
Pakistan team: Imam-Ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Wahab Riaz
©Cricket World 2019