Pakistan kept their semi-final hopes alive and handed New Zealand their first defeat of CWC 2019 earlier this evening at Edgbaston. Here are our talking points from this fixture in Birmingham between the Black Caps and the Men in Green.
Eerie parallels to 1992 for Pakistan’s campaign
Pakistan’s 2019 World Cup campaign has been eerily similar to their 1992 title winning one. On both occasions, they were thrashed in the first game by the West Indies, won the second one, had the third rained out, lost both the fourth and fifth fixtures, and won the sixth and the seventh.
New Zealand were unbeaten at the 1992 World Cup when they lost to Pakistan in the group stages in the seventh game of the tournament, just as it happened today. Both World Cups followed the same round-robin format.
In 1992, Pakistan qualified for the last four at the expense of hosts Australia. Will they produce a repeat this time around, and make it to the semis at England’s expense?
Tom Latham drops Babar Azam
Babar Azam is easily Pakistan’s best batsman, and as an opposition player, one would want to snaffle ANY chance given by him. With the pitch turning square, Mitch Santner got an edge off Babar’s bat, only for wicket-keeper Tom Latham to spill a relatively straight forward chance. If Babar had been dismissed, it would’ve exposed Pakistan’s fragile lower middle order with plenty still to chase.
Babar eventually made an unbeaten century- the first by a Pakistani middle-order batsman at a World Cup since 1987.
Black Caps err in not picking Ish Sodhi
New Zealand opted to field the same XI for the sixth consecutive time in this World Cup, matching South Africa’s record from 1999. In hindsight, they should’ve picked Ish Sodhi on this pitch, which at times felt more like Nagpur than Edgbaston, with balls turning square. Both Babar Azam and Haris Sohail were visibly uncomfortable against spin- even against Kane Williamson, and a quality leggie like Sodhi might’ve easily run through them.
New Zealand’s other batsmen need to step up
New Zealand’s openers haven’t hit any kind of form since the opening game against Sri Lanka. Tom Latham is another in the middle order who has failed to deliver. Kane Williamson has carried the Black Caps through this tournament, with Ross Taylor supporting him. Taylor was however dismissed early today (a wonder catch from Sarfaraz Ahmed), while Williamson fell to a beauty from Shadab Khan.
The form of Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme with the bat would’ve encouraged Black Caps supporters, but the openers certainly need to contribute more if they are to go all the way in this tournament.
Another bad day at the office for Colin Munro
Munro was poor with the bat as usual- another awful dismissal without really making much of an impact. For some bizarre reason, Williamson also tossed the ball to him in the 36th over. Pakistan needed 93 from 90 at that stage with the fifth bowler’s quota out of the way, and the required rate having just gone past a run a ball. Munro however delivered an ordinary over that went for 9, and with the rate again dropping below six, the pressure was off Pakistan.
Haris Sohail impresses again
His 89 was a big reason for Pakistan beating South Africa and here again at Edgbaston, Haris Sohail showed his class with a fine half century that ensured a comfortable chase for Micky Arthur’s men. Pakistan were in a state of bother when he walked in at 5, and while Sohail had some issues initially against spin, he survived the period and then cashed in once settled. Adds some much needed ballast to Pakistan’s middle-order, and makes them look a far better side.