Pakistan beat New Zealand to increase World Cup pressure on England

New Zealand 237-6; Pakistan 241-4; Pakistan win by six wickets
• Babar Azam scores century in successful run chase

Pakistan are making a late surge in the direction of the World Cup’s semi‑final spots, with the winds of their victorious 1992 campaign possibly behind them once more if the form book is anything to go by.

In defeating New Zealand by six wickets at Edgbaston – where the atmosphere evoked a match in Lahore or Karachi – they have continued a run of results that has so far matched Imran Khan’s Cornered Tigers game for game (including a washout).

Now with seven points in the bag, and games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh to come, Sarfaraz Ahmed’s current generation look as poised as any to pounce should fourth-placed England, sitting on eight, fail to chalk up wins from their remaining two games.

Here, as a sea of green supporters roared them on and local seismologists probably stared quizzically at their instruments, it came down to a masterful unbeaten 101 from Babar Azam who, along with a 76-ball 68 from Haris Sohail, chased down the target of 238 with five balls to spare.

Jimmy Neesham’s unbeaten 97 had earlier helped New Zealand to post 237 for six – a total that was not undefendable given a slow, capricious surface that had resulted from Birmingham’s recent spell of wet weather.

But Babar transcended these conditions, overcoming the pace of Lockie Ferguson, the swing of Trent Boult and some considerable turn for Mitchell Santner’s left-armers with a frictionless innings of 127 balls and 11 fours via some delightful cover drives.

With Haris, who took the aerial route a couple of times before being run out in the final throes, a stand of 126 was compiled that ultimately broke the back of the chase before Sarfaraz crashed the winning runs through point.

“I think this is my best innings because it was a must-win game,” said Babar, who brought up his 10th ODI century and passed 3,000 runs en route – the second fastest batsmen there, in 68 innings, after Hashim Amla (57).

When Neesham pulled the final ball of the first innings into the Hollies Stand for six, it had actually capped a decent fightback from New Zealand, who were 83 for five in the 27th over after winning the toss. Neesham’s highest ODI score, allied with a 71-ball 64 from Colin de Grandhomme in stand of 132, also overcame a huge numerical disadvantage by way of support; Edgbaston had been rocking from the moment Mohammad Amir’s first ball cannoned into Martin Guptill’s stumps.

Another left-armer produced the standout spell, though, as Shaheen Shah Afridi tore through the New Zealand top order. From his 6ft 6in frame, this slick 19-year-old located the ideal length to tease nicks behind from Colin Munro (12), Ross Taylor (3) and Tom Latham (1) in a seven-over burst that cost a mere 11 runs.

Among these strikes came an athletic one‑handed catch from Sarfaraz behind the stumps to remove Taylor. While one in the eye for the ‘supporter’ who was filmed calling Sarfaraz a ‘fat pig’ during a recent shopping trip with his family, the captain’s most significant pouch came mid-innings when Kane Williamson edged a flighted leg-break from Shadab Khan behind on 41.

Boult struck early in the chase – Fakhar Zaman caught attempting a typically ambitious swipe – before Ferguson, the rubbery right-armer who has a claim to being the World Cup’s fastest bowler, bounced out Imam-ul-Haq thanks to a superb diving catch by Guptill at point.

But while Ferguson repeatedly beat the outside edge in his initial spell, in Babar Pakistan had a batsman up to the task. A stand of 66 with Mohammad Hafeez was ended when the man they call The Professor holed out to Williamson’s part-time offies. But, if anything, this breakthrough –Santner getting the ball to rag at the other end – underlined New Zealand’s error in not selecting a second spinner.

Their captain, Williamson, said: “We were outplayed on a tough surface by a great Pakistan side. We were right in it after taking early wickets but the partnership between Babar and Haris was fantastic.”

With 11 points to their name, Williamson’s men know a win or a washout against either Australia or England will be enough to make the final four. And Pakistan? When they are in this mood, you wouldn’t bet against them.


Ali Martin at Edgbaston

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Kohli wary of Archer and predicts pressure will curb World Cup run-fests | Ali Martin
Virat Kohli offered the most intriguing answers as rivals picked England as the team to beat and named the opposition players they would most like in their team

Ali Martin

23, May, 2019 @5:50 PM

Article image
Cricket World Cup 2019: Guardian writers’ predictions
Victory for England, fireworks from Chris Gayle and a Sri Lankan meltdown: our pundits set out their forecasts for a month and a half of ODIs

Guardian sport

29, May, 2019 @9:55 AM

Article image
Cricket World Cup: New Zealand nerves jangle as they beat Bangladesh in thriller
New Zealand remain undefeated after their two-wicket win against Bangladesh at the Oval

Emma John at the Oval

05, Jun, 2019 @8:42 PM

Article image
England dispatch New Zealand to seal Cricket World Cup semi-final spot
A century by Jonny Bairstow set up England for a 119-run win over New Zealand to seal their Cricket World Cup semi-final place

Vic Marks at Chester-le-Street

03, Jul, 2019 @5:56 PM

Article image
England win Cricket World Cup after super-over drama against New Zealand
England have won the Cricket World Cup for the first time after a thrilling victory over New Zealand at Lord’s in a match that had to be settled by a super over

Vic Marks at Lord’s

14, Jul, 2019 @6:32 PM

Article image
England tours of Pakistan on knife edge after New Zealand pull out of country
The England and Wales Cricket Board will spend the weekend deciding whether to cancel next month’s tours of Pakistan after New Zealand abandoned their current visit to the country citing security advice

Ali Martin

17, Sep, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Pakistan exit Cricket World Cup despite victory over Bangladesh
Pakistan are out of the Cricket World Cup despite a 94-run victory over Bangladesh at Lord’s

Barney Ronay at Lord’s

05, Jul, 2019 @5:24 PM

Article image
Pakistan World Cup guide: gameplan, key player and prediction
Despite a run of defeats in 50-over games, there are reasons for optimism – not least the form of batsman Babar Azam and previous success in England

Zainab Abbas

26, May, 2019 @1:00 PM

Article image
Eoin Morgan tells England to focus on victory for vital New Zealand game
Eoin Morgan played in the limp defeat to New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup but he wants his side to focus on the positives for this game at Chester-le-Street

Ali Martin at Chester-le-Street

02, Jul, 2019 @5:04 PM

Article image
New Zealand Cricket World Cup guide: gameplan, key player and prediction
The Black Caps arrive with an experienced, balanced squad and the conditions should suit big hitters such as Martin Guptill who will be crucial to their chances

Liam Napier

24, May, 2019 @9:11 AM