Pakistan make short work of New Zealand to storm into T20 World Cup final

Pak pacers on song, Babar Azam back in form in the semi-final

Atreyo Mukhopadhyay Published 09.11.22, 08:45 PM
Selfie time in the Pakistan dressing room

Selfie time in the Pakistan dressing room @TheRealPCB/ Twitter

All but out of reckoning for a semi-final slot in the T20 World Cup, Pakistan are in the final, with a convincing win against New Zealand. They had been written off after defeats against India and Zimbabwe, but made the most of the lifeline handed by the Netherlands, who defeated South Africa. Whoever they face in the final on Sunday — India or England — the green brigade will fancy their chances. Cometh the hour, cometh Pakistan!

Contrasting tale of first six overs

Teams often started slow in this edition of the event, despite only two fielders being allowed outside the 30-yard circle in the first six overs. Teams usually back their openers or the No. 3 batter to collect as many runs as possible in this phase. Pakistan outdid New Zealand in that area in Sydney on Wednesday. New Zealand hit a mere three fours in the first 36 deliveries, of which 14 were dot balls. Their total after six overs was 38 for two. In comparison, Pakistan raced to 55 without loss after six overs. They played 11 dot balls and hit nine fours. New Zealand did accelerate in the second half and make 93 runs in the last 10 overs, but the advantage the Pakistan openers ensured in the first six overs proved decisive. Md Rizwan and Babar Azam were willing to take chances and it was their day. Thanks to them, Pakistan succeeded in registering just the third win in the Super 12 stage with a side chasing more than 150.


The emperor strikes back

He had 39 runs from five outings in this competition. The media and former Pakistan players were not mincing words against him. But Babar Azam rose to the occasion in the crunch game. Fortunate to see an outside edge just escape the reach of the wicketkeeper off the first ball he faced, the Pakistan captain was on song. The timing was back, so was the placement and with that, the confidence. An accomplished touch player in every format of the game, Azam tormented the New Zealand bowlers in the company of Man-of-the-Match Rizwan and pretty much settled the issue inside the first 10 overs, which fetched Pakistan 87 runs without a wicket. A 38-ball half-century was just what Pakistan needed from their skipper. Azam’s return to form and his ability to forge a dangerous partnership with Rizwan will make the other finalist very, very wary.

Who thought they could field this well

Despite producing top fast bowlers, batters and spinners, Pakistan have often suffered in big events because of their fielding. Wednesday saw a titanic shift. Pakistan players were diving around with energy and commitment, reducing potential boundaries to one or two runs, and also coming up with direct hits. Shadab Khan was brilliant and so were Shan Masood and Md Wasim. They saved around 15-20 runs, which is often decisive in T20 matches. These are signs of a bunch of players playing for each other and hungry to buck the trend.

Bowl fast and reap the rewards

Fast bowling is the one department that kept Pakistan afloat when the chips were down. They have four bowlers who can hit the deck, extract movement at a formidable pace and also swing the ball when the conditions are favourable. Against New Zealand, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim and Haris Rauf consistently clocked 140kmph or more. Rauf even crossed 150. The best of the lot, Shaheen Shah Afridi, was not as quick, but finished with figures of two for 24 from four overs. Other teams also have good fast bowlers, but not many can boast of four of such quality. They made a big difference in the semi-final. The New Zealanders were not half as effective and paid the price.

Off the field: Fans have a field day

Over the past few years, India fans have lit up World Cups in different countries. Dressed in fancy costumes, beating drums and blowing conch shells, the ‘Bharat Army’ turn matches into a carnival, outdoing fans of other nations. It was the turn of the Pakistan fans to take over Sydney on Wednesday. From the weirdly clad to the conservatively clad, they made the atmosphere festive with their placards and drums. Last but not least, there was a poster saying: “Thank you Netherlands”!

Did you know?

Sydney, or New South Wales, was the home of Philip Hughes. The opening batsman, who played over 50 international matches for Australia, died in 2014, four days short of turning 26, after being hit on the head during a domestic match. His home ground, the SCG, has remembered him by installing this plaque outside the dressing room marked for the home team.

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