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New Zealand vs Pakistan: Afridi, Azam Shine as Pakistan Win by Six Wickets at Birmingham

Cricketnext Staff |June 27, 2019, 8:42 AM IST
New Zealand vs Pakistan: Afridi, Azam Shine as Pakistan Win by Six Wickets at Birmingham

The Edgbaston Cricket Ground was painted green on Wednesday (June 26) and the 24,000-odd raucous Pakistan supporters got every bit of their penny's worth. Shaheen Shah Afridi first starred with the ball before Babar Azam's 10th One-Day International century helped Pakistan keep their semi-finals hopes alive handing New Zealand their first defeat of the World Cup by six wickets.

Afridi returned with exceptional figures of 3/28 from his ten overs to restrict New Zealand to 237/6 despite a career-best 97 not out from Jimmy Neesham. In reply, despite a few bobbles upfront Azam (101 not out) stood firm and along with Haris Sohail (68) got the side home in 49.1 overs.

Overnight rain delayed the start in Birmingham by an hour but no overs were lost as New Zealand elected to bat first under slightly overcast skies. The move backfired almost instantly with Mohammad Amir striking with his first ball of the day bowling Martin Guptill for 5. It was an Afridi show post that as he bowled with intensity, precision and pace giving absolutely nothing away in a riveting spell that had greats such as Wasim Akram wax lyrical in the commentary box.

He started off by getting Colin Munro to edge one straight to Sohail at slips for 12 in his second over and then picked up the big wicket of Ross Taylor (3) soon after. Bowling from over the wicket, he forced Taylor to nibble at a length delivery just outside off stump and the thick edge was neatly taken by captain Sarfaraz Ahmed diving to his right.

The left-arm pacer then had Tom Latham edging behind the stumps for 1 as New Zealand slipped to 46/4 in the 13th over. Such was Afridi's excellence that by the end of seven over his figures read a phenomenal 7-3-11-3.

It was down to Kane Williamson once again to steady the ship and he found an able ally in Neesham to take New Zealand forward. The duo stitched a crucial 37-run for the fifth wicket but just when it seemed they will get their side out of troubled waters, Shadab Khan struck with an absolute pearler. He drew Williamson (41) forward, got the ball to spin away just enough to catch the outside edge and Sarfaraz once again made no mistake.

At 83/5, it felt New Zealand would collapse in a heap but Colin de Grandhomme and Neesham had other ideas. The duo curbed their natural aggressive style of play and decided to put a price on the wicket. The run rate did not cross the four-run per over mark too often but both players ensured there were no further casualties for the next 122 balls.

Neesham

De Grandhomme was the more aggressive of the two but Neesham too kept the scoreboard ticking stealthily. The latter reached his half-century first getting there in 77 balls and de Grandhomme followed suit. The duo opened up their shoulders post the 40th over and got good results out of it. An 18-run over off Amir pushed the score above the 200-run mark with the pair also reaching a 100-run stand for the very first time in ODIs.

Their 132-run association finally came to an end when de Grandhomme was run out for 64 in a bid to steal a second run but the pair had given New Zealand enough to work on by then. Neesham finished the innings in a blaze of glory thumping Wahab Riaz for a pull over deep midwicket as New Zealand collected 53 runs off the last five overs. Neesham slammed five fours and three sixes during his 112-ball knock while de Grandhomme's innings was laced with six fours and a six. For Pakistan, Afridi was miles ahead of his more decorated teammates bowling three maidens in his 10-over spell.

Pakistan's chase started off in a flourish with both Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman collecting four fours off the first 13 balls. Trent Boult, however, brought parity to proceedings getting rid of Zaman for 9. The left-hander looking to go across the line could only manage a leading edge which was held safely by Guptill running a few steps back from cover. Lockie Ferguson then in his very first over sent back Imam (19) with a brute of a bouncer that the batsman could only fend as far as Guptill at backward point.

Mohammad Hafeez survived a nasty spell of fast bowling which included being hit on the helmet grille and shoulder but the 38-year-old soldiered on. Azam looked his fluent self from the outset and both players took the chase forward well.

A key moment in the game came when spin was introduced for the first time in the 17th over. The surface suddenly felt more Eden Gardens than Edgbaston as Mitchell Santner ripped deliveries past the batsman's outside edge like a spitting cobra. He could have had both Azam and Hafeez on multiple occasions but found little luck. Such was his magic that Williamson had a slip, gully and at times a short leg fielder for him.

The reaps of the seeds sown by Santner were achieved by Williamson as he had Hafeez caught at deep midwicket for 32 to throw the game wide open with Pakistan on a creaky 110/3 after 25 overs.

But Sohail, the star of Pakistan's previous outing once again came to the rescue. Despite the ball spinning like a top from the rough, he did not lose his composure and along with Azam made sure the runs kept flowing. Azam reached his fifty off 68 balls to get Pakistan's chase back on track and more importantly did not throw his wicket away post that.

With a straight six against Boult, Sohail announced he was not going to die wondering while Azam too got his boundary counter up once the pressure was slightly released. Pakistan crossed the 200-run mark in the 42nd over while the duo too brought up their 100-run stand soon after.

Azam finally reached his century in the 48th over with a cut behind square to send the crowd into a frenzy. His knock was laced with 11 glorious boundaries but more importantly, he made sure he was there right till the end.

Sohail was run out with Pakistan needing just two to win but Sarfaraz (5 not out) made sure there were no hiccups as he finished off the chase off the first ball of the 50th over with a cracking four.

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Cricket World Cup Points Table

Pos Team P W L T/NR PTS NRR
1
IND
9 7 1 1 15 +0.80
2
AUS
9 7 2 0 14 +0.86
3
ENG
9 6 3 0 12 +1.15
4
NZ
9 5 3 1 11 +0.17
5
PAK
9 5 3 1 11 -0.43
6
SL
9 3 4 2 8 -0.91
7
SA
9 3 5 1 7 -0.03
8
BAN
9 3 5 1 7 -0.41
9
WI
9 2 6 1 5 -0.22
10
AFG
9 0 9 0 0 -1.32

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6420 123
2 India 6807 122
3 New Zealand 4763 113
4 Australia 5470 112
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 Australia 5471 261
5 India 7273 260
see more