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The parallels to 1992 keep on increasing, and just as it had happened in that Oceania hosted World Cup, Pakistan beat New Zealand in the first semi-final today at the SCG in front of a crowd of 36,443 to book their spot in Sunday’s final in Melbourne. They will meet either England (whom they beat in the 1992 final at the MCG) or arch rivals India, who beat them at the same venue three weeks ago in the group stages in front of a 90,293 strong crowd.
The 36,443 fans in attendance for this Pakistan v Black Caps SF was also a record crowd for Sydney at this tournament, beating the 36,426 who had turned up for India against the Netherlands. It also comfortably bettered the 30,351 who watched Pakistan beat South Africa at this ground last week.
It was a comfortable win for Pakistan. New Zealand won the toss and opted to bat, but never quite got going. Shaheen Afridi, who has looked more and more like his past self as this tournament has gone on, trapped the dangerous Finn Allen LBW in the first over. A lovely piece of fielding from Shadab Khan accounted for Devon Conway and SCG centurion Glenn Phillips made only 6 before he gave an easy return catch to Mohammed Nawaz. The Black Caps managed were 59/3 at the half way mark in their innings.
Kane Williamson made 46 (42) but was dismissed by Shaheen Shah Afridi at a crucial juncture just as he was beginning to open up. Daryl Mitchell played well, but Pakistan’s bowlers proved hard to get away, and NZ only managed 152 in their allotted 20 overs.
Perhaps buoyed by Mohammad Haris’ success in the powerplay, Babar and Rizwan took a note out of the former’s books and were uber aggressive, picking up 55 in the first six. New Zealand never quite recovered from that early punch, and Pakistan coasted to victory with five balls to spare. Both Babar and Rizwan scored half centuries- a timely return to form for the successful duo, who have under-performed in this World Cup so far.