The match started on a somber note for the Kiwis, who lost Martin Guptill and Colin Munro in nearly no time. Collectively, the openers placed on 263 run this tournament on aggregate, which is significantly below par. After the Amir onslaught in the first few overs, Shaheen Afridi breathed fire and took over the session once the powerplay had been completed.
On a track that has done so much, one cannot ask for a knock of greater quality. Babar Azam was on his best technical day to improve the Kiwi bowlers’ wrath, who didn’t have much to defend but did a wonderful job to save their side. It was Babar Azam and Haris Sohail who eventually had the last laugh as the Pakistani team kept their ambitions alive to win the tournament.
Kane Williamson attempted to sail against the tide but as Shadab Khan dismissed him in the 26th over, he too lost his composure. It seemed like New Zealand was finished and dusted at 83/4, but Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham had other ideas.
The duo batted to get going very sensibly and kept collecting the odd boundaries. Both batsmen finished their half-centuries and added a very good scoring rate of 132 runs for the fifth wicket.
Their partnership gave Neesham the confidence that even after Grandhomme’s dismissal he would give the side a strong finish. Neesham ended up agonizingly unbeaten on 97 with no more deliveries left, but for the loss of six wickets, he ensured New Zealand got to 237 runs. For Pakistan, Shaheen Afridi recorded exceptional figures of 3/28
When in the arsenal you have a bowler of the quality of Trent Boult, you expect him to give nearly every game a strong beginning and he did that in this one. He dismissed Fakhar Zaman very soon in the match and only two balls after the powerplay, Lockie Ferguson dismissed Imam-ul-Haq. Mohammad Hafeez and Babar Azam stitched a great partnership from here despite the ball gripping obnoxiously for Mitch Santner.
Hafeez and Azam’s class saw them through the hard overs and from the fast bowlers they scored some precious runs in the other overs. Hafeez threw his wicket back to a part-time bowler in Kane Williamson after the duo added 66 runs for the third wicket. The Kiwis seemed to have a lifeline from here, but for the men in green, Azam and Haris Sohail stitched a dream partnership.
They made the good work of the spinners go in vain and targeted the fast bowlers in difficult conditions. This pair’s class held the Kiwis at bay as they were able to keep the required run-rate in check. Haris Sohail finished his half-century at a sensational strike rate with less than 10 runs to get, Babar finished his 10th ODI hundred at a rousing reception from a packed Birmingham house.
Although Haris Sohail ran himself out courtesy of Martin Guptill’s outstanding job, Pakistan required only two runs to win at that stage, and skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed went in to complete the proceedings with five remaining balls.