Pakistan win makes Tigers’ task harder

Pakistan’s Babar Azam celebrates his century against New Zealand during their ICC World Cup match in Edgbaston, Birmingham on Wednesday.— Reuters photo

Pakistan enjoyed some fun before completing a six-wicket win, ending New Zealand’s unbeaten run in the 2019 World Cup to leave the semi-final  race wide open at Birmingham on Wednesday.

Babar Azam struck an unbeaten 101 off 127 balls as Pakistan reached 241-4 after restricting New Zealand to 237-6 owing to a brilliant opening spell of Shaheen Afridi at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground.

Pakistan’s third win in the tournament left them exactly with the same situation of 1992 when they made it to the semi-final and eventually won the title despite a torrid start.

It also left New Zealand waiting to book their semi-final spot and more crucially made the task harder for Bangladesh, who must now win their remaining two matches and hope some favours from others.

If England and Sri Lanka lose points in their remaining matches while Bangladesh and Pakistan win their next match, Bangladesh’s last league match against Pakistan on July 5 at Lord’s will turn into a virtual quarter-final.

Bangladesh can progress to the semi-final even if they lose to India on July 2 in their next match but must beat Pakistan, though the result of a lot of other matches have to come to their way for it to happen.

For Bangladesh to qualify for the semi-final with just one win in their next two matches, Pakistan now have to lose against Afghanistan and England have to lose against both India and New Zealand while Sri Lanka have to lose two of their remaining three matches respectively against South Africa, West Indies and India.

Things on the other hands have become relatively easier for Pakistan, who only need to beat Afghanistan on Saturday and see England and Sri Lanka lose points before they face Bangladesh.

A defeat against New Zealand would have all but ended Pakistan’s hopes but much-like Inzamam-ul Haq, who rattled Martin Crowe’s side in 1992 they unveiled a new star in left-arm pacer Shaheen Afridi this time much to the shock of the Kiwis.

Shaheen may have played few one-day internationals before coming to the World Cup but did not do anything special that would require the oppositions doing extra homework about him.

New Zealand paid the price as Shaheen rocked their batting order with an extraordinary opening spell of seven overs, which cost him just 11 runs for three wickets.

Shaheen’s three-wicket burst came after Mohammad Amir provided Pakistan with the initial breakthrough, meaning New Zealand lost their first four wickets for only 46 runs.

Kane Williamson provided the initial resistance with 41 runs before Shadab Khan beat him with a classic leg-break delivery for Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed to take a sharp catch.

James Neesham conducted the rescue act for New Zealand to hit an unbeaten 97 runs and share 132-run with Colin de Grandhomme for the sixth wicket to give their innings some respectability.

Pakistan endured a shaky start in their chase and lost opener Fakhar Zaman (nine) and Imam-ul-Haq (19) to give New Zealand some hopes of preventing the upset.

When Mohammad Hafeez (32) gave a catch to Lockie Ferguson off Williamson at deep mid-wicket to leave his side on 110-3, Pakistan appeared nervous as they collapsed from similar situations several times in this World Cup.

But Babar and Haris Sohail (68) ensured there was no madness this time and coasted Pakistan to win with 126-run stand, bringing back memory of 1992’s ‘Cornered Tigers.’

The only dissimilarly for them with 1992 situation is that, unlike New Zealand, in their last league match they have to face now Bangladesh, the team known as  original Tigers.


Source: New Age.


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