Pakistan stun New Zealand to reach final

- colombogazette.com

Pakistan reached the Men’s T20 World Cup final after a thunderous seven-wicket win over New Zealand in Sydney.

Chasing 153 to win, Pakistan openers Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan hit half-centuries in an opening stand of 105 to tee up a stunning victory.

Shan Masood hit the winning runs with five balls to spare to send the Pakistan fans wild at an electric SCG.

Daryl Mitchell had earlier hit an unbeaten half-century as New Zealand recovered from 49-3 to post 152-4.

Pakistan will now play England or India – who meet on Thursday – in Sunday’s final in Melbourne.

It continues a stunning comeback for Pakistan, who were on the brink of elimination after losing to rivals India and then Zimbabwe in their first two matches of the tournament.

They needed a shock defeat of South Africa by the Netherlands to keep their hopes alive, but they are now just one match away from a second T20 World Cup triumph.

“The team has performed so well in the last three matches and they followed that today. I want to thank the crowd, it feels like we are playing at home,” said Pakistan captain Babar.

“We will enjoy this moment but at the same time we have got to focus on the final.”

Pakistan made an awful start to this tournament but now seem to have almost unstoppable momentum as they look to repeat their success in the 1992 50-over World Cup in Australia underthe captaincy of Imran Khan.

They made a terrible start to that competition too, losing their first three group matches, but a dramatic revival – including a semi-final win over New Zealand – carried them to victory over England in the final.

There seems to be a similar sense of destiny here as they ride the crest of a wave fuelled by their boisterous, passionate support, who once against gathered in great numbers.

They blew New Zealand away largely thanks to a wonderful start with the bat by Babar and Rizwan, who have struggled for fluency this tournament but finally fired when it mattered.

A brutal opening assault lifted them to 55-0 after the powerplay and when they reached 87-0 at the halfway stage, the Kiwi players looked stunned.

“Me and Babar were struggling with the pitches, with the new ball and the swing. But we always believed in ourselves, we always keep fighting,” said Mohammad Rizwan, who was named player of the match.

“As soon as we crossed the boundary line, we wanted to take on the new ball. We knew the pitch was tricky, we thought 150 was a good total on that pitch but we knew we could take them on.”

Babar was eventually dismissed when he looked to heave Boult for six but instead holed out to Mitchell at long-on, but his 53 from 42 balls was more than he has scored in five previous innings at this World Cup combined.

Two more late wickets, including that of Rizwan for 57 from 43 balls, briefly had Pakistan nerves fluttering, but Masood saw them over the line to complete a comprehensive victory.

“It is just amazing. The way they’ve come back, it feels like it’s written in the stars,” said BBC Test Match Special commentator Henry Moeran.

“It’s a cliché, saying you never know what you’re going to get from Pakistan, but what they have shown today is resilience, is strength, toughness, and when it really mattered they put everything together.”

In contrast to Pakistan, New Zealand made almost serene progress to this stage after beginning their tournament with a thumping win over hosts Australia.

But they looked utterly bewildered here and can have few complaints with the result.

The tone of the match was set in the opening over, with Finn Allen driving Shaheen Afridi’s first ball of the match for four before being given out lbw off the following delivery.

Allen successfully overturned the decision after replays showed a thick inside edge, but another vicious inswinger from Shaheen trapped him in front next ball to gee up an already excitable crowd.

Mitchell and Williamson doggedly rebuilt the innings after the Black Caps slipped to 49-3, but hit just five boundaries in a 68-run partnership for the fourth wicket.

The used surface appeared slow and difficult to score from, meaning New Zealand’s 152-4 appeared a defendable total. But Pakistan made a mockery of that as they dismantled the experienced Black Caps bowling partnership of Boult and Southee in the powerplay to put themselves ahead of the run-rate.

New Zealand’s below-par display was summed up by two dropped catches, most notably Babar, who was put down by wicketkeeper Conway from the second ball of the match.

“It is a tough pill to swallow,” said Williamson. “Babar and Rizwan put us under pressure but if we are honest with ourselves, we should have been more disciplined. They deserved to be the winners of that game.

“We have played a lot of good cricket, we have stuck to what has given us a lot of success but today we weren’t at our best.” (BBC)

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