NZ vs PAK: Pakistan continued to build some serious steam heading into the final phases of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, handing New Zealand their first defeat of the tournament. ‘Clinical’ is not the term which you often associate with Pakistan. But they were exactly that, first in their opening spell with the ball and then in their run chase on a sticky wicket.
New Zealand did have their moments during the game. Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme tried their utmost best, rescuing the Kiwis from a precarious position. Their bowlers then bowled with great discipline. But Pakistan were simply the better team on the day, eventually accomplishing a 6-wicket victory with 5 balls to spare.
Compared to all the hype which surrounded him, Shaheen Afridi was having a pretty subdued tournament. He was struggling with the right lengths to bowl on the flat English decks. Not this time. The tall left-arm pacer was simply sensational in his first spell, making the Kiwi batsmen dance to his tunes. Amir had already gotten rid of Guptill early on and Afridi made life even tougher for the batsmen. He had the scalps of Munro, Taylor and Latham and ended up with figures of 3-28 in his 10 overs. His spell had New Zealand reeling at 83-5 and only a tremendous fightback would bring them back in the game.
Neesham, Grandhomme stitch record stand
With the quality which Pakistan had in their ranks, many expected New Zealand to be folded out for a paltry total. But the duo of all-rounders Neesham and Grandhomme had other plans. Making vital contributions at different phases during New Zealand’s campaign, the pair really came to the fore. They played every delivery on its merit, punishing the bad ones to keep the scoreboard ticking. Their mammoth partnership of 132 meant that New Zealand ended with a respectable total of 237/6. Neesham scored an unbeaten 97 off 112 deliveries while de Grandhomme was run-out for 64.
Men in Green face early jitters
The last thing Pakistan needed in their moderate run-chase was to lose their openers early. The Kiwi pacers were spot on in their early spell, making life tough for the Pakistani batters on a sluggish pitch. Fakhar Zaman was the first to perish to Trent Boult for 9. Lockie Ferguson coming into the attack then picked up the solid-looking Imam-ul-Haq for 19. The onus was then upon young Babar Azam and the experienced Mohammed Hafeez to steady the ship. They did exactly that, forging together a partnership of 66. With the scoreboard pressure not being a huge factor, the pair could afford to play themselves in. But Hafeez soon lost his calm against a part-time spinner in Williamson, gifting his wicket on 32 to give New Zealand a glimmer of hope.
A maiden World Cup ton
The manner in which they have batted in the tournament, Babar Azam and Haris Sohail are undoubtedly the future of Pakistan cricket. With the Kiwis mounting pressure, the pair did not let anything faze them. While Azam was at his calm and composed best, Sohail continued from where he left off at Lord’s, playing some extravagant shots. The two young campaigners took Pakistan in a position to seal a relatively comfortable victory. Sohail ended up scoring 68, while Babar’s maiden World Cup hundred transported him to a league of legends.