Shaheen Afridi’s 3-wicket haul and an unbeaten century from Babar Azam helped Pakistan to register a six-wicket win over New Zealand on June 26 at Edgbaston, Birmingham. With this win, Pakistan kept their hope alive of qualifying for the semi-finals.
New Zealand won the toss and opted to bat first. Their decision became a nightmare for them as they soon lost their opener, Martin Guptill, when Pakistan’s pace spearhead Mohammed Amir dismissed him in the very first ball of his first over.
His dismissal brought captain Kane Williamson on the crease. He along with Colin Munro tried to stable the innings but their plan failed as youngster Shaheen Afridi struck in the 7th over when he picked up Munro for 12. The situation became worst when Afridi struck twice later and dismissed two in-form batsmen Ross Taylor and Tom Latham in quick succession which left the Kiwis struggling at 46/4 after 12.3 overs.
The pressure fell upon Kane Williamson and James Neesham. Both tried to resurrect the innings slowly so that they don’t lose any further wickets. Both added 37 runs before Williamson fell for 41 off 69. After his dismissal, Colin de Grandhomme joined Neesham on the crease. All eyes were on the pair as both of them are known for scoring big.
Both steadied the ship with timely boundaries and rotating strike. Pakistan failed to break the partnership before 48th over. Both added 132 runs where Grandhomme scored a 71-ball 64 before got out. His knock included 6 boundaries and a six. Neesham scored an unbeaten 97 off 112, including 5 fours and 3 sixes and took his side to a decent total of 237 after 50 overs.
While chasing, Pakistan needed a steady start. But openers failed to provide one. After giving away a couple of boundaries, New Zealand were able to strike. Trent Boult struck in the third over when a leg-lined length ball dismissed Fakhar Zaman while Zaman was trying to flick it away. But it didn’t go there where he wanted, instead of getting a big leading edge which Guptill took with ease.
After adding 25 runs, other opener Imam ul Haq also dismissed after a struggling 19 off 29. This time it was Lockie Ferguson who was successfully handed over New Zealand their second breakthrough. His dismissal brought all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez in the middle. He along with Azam slowly started building the ship.
They added 66 runs before Hafeez fell for 32 off 50. Later, Haris Sohail joined Babar Azam who reached his half-century in 65 balls. Once again both of them started to stable the chase. The Kiwis failed to strike again as both Azam and Sohail started hitting all over the park. It became difficult for the bowlers to get past them when the batsmen got settled in the middle.
A couple of big shots and strike rotation helped Sohail to score his second half-century in the 45th over while Babar Azam scored his maiden World Cup hundred in the 48th over. Sohail, however, failed to finish the chase as he fell for 68 off 76, including 5 fours and 2 sixes. Babar Azam, on the other hand, remained unbeaten at 101 and took the team over the finish line with 5 balls to spear.