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Agencies­
June 27, 2019

Pakistan beat the unbeaten Kiwis: It’s déjà vu so far

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A
Agencies­
June 27, 2019

BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan kept alive their chances of reaching the World Cup semi-finals on Wednesday, cruising to a six-wicket win against previously unbeaten New Zealand at Edgbaston.

New Zealand scored 237 for six in their 50 overs but that total proved inadequate as Babar Azam scored an impressive unbeaten 101 and Haris Sohail (68) offered valuable support. Pakistan reached their target off the first ball of their final over, finishing on 241-4.

"The wicket was difficult but my aim was to bat for 50 overs and if I did I knew Pakistan would win the match," said man-of-the-match Babar. "We know we´d need to score runs off the pace bowlers. Once (Mitchell) Santner came on it was doing stuff off the pitch so Mohammad Hafeez told me to stick at it and score three or four runs an over."

Sarfaraz Ahmed´s side, who beat South Africa on Sunday to revive their flagging World Cup campaign, now have seven points, level with fifth-placed Bangladesh and just one point behind hosts England.

During the course of his innings, Babar became the second-fastest to reach 3,000 one-day international runs in front of thousands of fanatical Pakistan fans. Babar, 24, took 11 innings more than South Africa´s Hashim Amla, who reached the milestone in 57 innings, but overtook West Indies great Viv Richards (69 innings).

He reached his hundred off 124 balls with 11 fours. Earlier, Jimmy Neesham hit a career-best 97 not out while Colin de Grandhomme made 64 after New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat.

Left-arm seamer ShaheenShah Afridi (3-28) starred as Pakistan reduced New Zealand to 83-5, with in-form captain Kane Williamson dismissed by leg-spinner Shadab Khan for 41. New Zealand are second in the table on 11 points behind Australia, the only team who have qualified so far.

The top four teams qualify for the semi-finals. The win also keeps up the spooky parallels between Pakistan their record in England this summer and their success in 1992.

After seven matches they have exactly the same record and sequence of results as they did in Australia 27 years ago, when they lifted the trophy for the first and so far only time. In both instances they won their first game before losing their second and seeing the third rained off.

They followed the washout in 1992 with defeat at the hands of South Africa and then Australia. This summer they were then beaten by Australia and India. Two defeats were followed by two victories then, and have been again this time around.

Sarfaraz Ahmed's side responded to the disappointment of defeat by rivals India at Old Trafford on June 16 with wins over South Africa and now the Kiwis. Babar Azam's century guided them to an easy victory after an excellent bowling performance.

Whether they can now the heroics of Imran Khan's vintage by going all the way to the final at Lord's remains to be seen, but they have given themselves a fighting chance. Back then they followed their win in the seventh game with victory again in the eighth, which took them into the final four.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan in his tweet congratulated Pakistani team on their crucial success against New Zealand in the World Cup Wednesday. The tweet says, “Congratulations to our cricket team for a great comeback. Congratulations especially go to Babar, Haris and Shaheen for their brilliant performances.

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