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Pakistan crack under pressure, New Zealand go through

It would be New Zealand's day in Mohali
It would be New Zealand's day in Mohali
©Chetan Narula / Cricket World

New Zealand became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2016 World T20 after they beat Pakistan - who cracked under pressure after a good start - by 22 runs.

New Zealand Prove Preparation

If there is one team in this competition that has looked the part of champions in waiting, it is the Black Caps. They have been prepared to the point in every game, so much so that they have gotten the better of India and Pakistan in conditions more familiar to them. They have batted first and defended low totals on slow, turning tracks in Nagpur and Dharamsala.

In Mohali against Pakistan then, it was about batting on a truer track and getting some decent runs on the board. After they chose to bat first, Martin Guptill (80) again got off to an aggressive start, but this time carried on for a longer period of time. Mohammad Amir (0-41) got the ball to swing but his control was all over the place this evening. Meanwhile Mohammad Irfan (1-46) couldn’t find his rhythm either.

Guptill then made full use of this as New Zealand galloped their way to 55 without loss in the first six overs. The worrying bit was that he didn’t get much support from the other end, with Kane Williamson (17) and Colin Munro (7) dismissed relatively cheaply.

The opening stand worth 62 runs had provided the base for a big score, and Corey Anderson (21) added another 52 runs with Guptill to make sure that it didn’t go to waste.

Pakistan managed to pull back the New Zealanders a bit, getting rid of both Guptill and Anderson in the space of six balls. It was the difference between New Zealand finishing with 180 for five and not crossing the 200-mark. That said, Ross Taylor provided the finishing touch, smacking 36 runs off only 23 balls and providing momentum to the innings in the death overs.

Pakistan Falter After Speedy Start

Sharjeel Khan came out and produced exactly what Pakistan wanted from him, a speedy start. He smacked 47 runs off just 25 balls, as they out-galloped New Zealand in that they got to 51 for no loss in just four overs.

By the end of the powerplay, they were 66 for one, with Sharjeel playing a few too many shots that ended in his downfall.

That is when the wheels started to come off Pakistan’s run chase. Ahmed Shahzad (30) had stayed long at the wicket, but he scored at a strike-rate of less than a hundred.

Khalid Latif’s inclusion and promotion to number three failed, and even Umar Akmal (24) started off slowly, and he too finished with a strike-rate below a hundred. It put pressure on Pakistan who were contemplating victory at one moment, and then they were bucking under the run chase.

New Zealand applied the squeeze through some impressive bowling, as Mitchell Santner (2-29) and Adam Milne (2-26) finished with a couple of wickets each. Then there was Ish Sodhi (1-25) who bowled another brilliant spell to restrict the scoring in the second half of the innings.

The disappointing aspect from Pakistan’s point of view was that they were ahead of the curve at one stage, and then let it slip from their grasp despite Shehzad and Akmal getting starts. They just couldn’t convert them into big scores, or big hits even, as the innings began to crawl.

After being placed at 89 for two at the halfway mark, Pakistan could only manage 69 runs for three wickets in the next 10 overs, with no boundary in the last 31 balls of the innings.

What Does This Mean?

Obviously New Zealand have progressed from this group and now there is only spot left with three teams in the fray. Pakistan still have an outside chance if they regroup one final time and beat Australia, while hoping India lose to either Australia or Bangladesh and slip below their net run-rate.

Australia need to beat at least one of Pakistan or India, while the hosts need to beat both Australia and Bangladesh. All in all, the final clash between Australia and India on March 27 in Mohali will decide the second semi-finalist from this group.

The Black Caps meanwhile are looking like champions-elect, the favourites at this stage. They have been here before, in this situation, and things have just melted from thereon. Can they avoid the jinx this time around?

© Cricket World 2016