World Cup 2019: Babar Azam's century leads Pakistan to a six-wicket win over New Zealand
Babar Azam put up a splendid display of batting of the highest order as his mature knock of an unbeaten 127-ball 101 laced with eleven fours led Pakistan to a six-wicket win over New Zealand to keep the former's semi-finals hopes alive in this World Cup 2019.
Chasing a target of 238 runs to win, Fakhar Zaman played some lovely strokes before being dismissed by Trent Boult for just 9. Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam played with positive intent, taking Pakistan to 43/1 at the end of 10 overs.
After the power play overs, Lockie Ferguson dismissed Imam for 19. Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez steadied the Pakistani innings with some lovely stroke play to put pressure on New Zealand bowlers. However, Mitchell Santer was introduced into the attack and the left-arm spinner troubled the Pakistani batsmen with some serious turn and bounce.
However, Azam and Hafeez played out Santner's overs as the lack of another spinner in the New Zealand bowling attack hit them hard. Yet, Williamson's move to bring himself on worked wonders as he got rid of Hafeez to end a 66-run alliance.
At the fall of Hafeez, Haris Sohail came to the crease and looked positive right from word go. The duo waited for the pacers to arrive and threaded the gaps with ease as Babar Azam reached his fifty off 65 balls while Haris Sohail completed his fifty off 63 balls.
Azam and Sohail continued to pile the pressure on New Zealand and added 126 runs for the 4th wicket before Sohail was run out for 68. However, Babar Azam was unperturbed and reached his century off 124 balls, bringing up his first century of this World Cup.
Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed, who walked in at Sohail's dismissal collected the winning runs with a four to covers as the Men in Green registered a 6-wicket win to keep their hopes alive of reaching the semi-finals.
Earlier in the game, New Zealand captain Williamson won the toss and decided to bat first. The decision did not pay off as they lost an early wicket of Martin Guptill for just five. Shaheen Shah Afridi was brilliant with the ball taking wickets of Colin Munro and Ross Taylor to leave New Zealand in big trouble at 38 for 3. At the end of 10 overs, the Kiwis were struggling 44/3.
After the power play overs, Shaheen Shah Afridi struck again dismissing Tom Latham for 1. New Zealand captain Kane Williamson looked solid with his technique and made the batting look easy on a tough batting wicket but soon perished to Shadab Khan that left the Black Caps tottering at 83/5.
James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme steadied the innings with a mature mix of patience and aggression as the two all-rounders completed their half-centuries and in the process also put together a vital 132-run stand that gave their side some impetus in the final overs.
Neesham, in particular donned the role of the aggressor in the final overs as he made up for the loss of de Grandhomme in the 48th over and collected 14 runs from Riaz's final over but was unfortunate to miss out on a century as he finished on 97* from 112 balls.
At the back of fine half-centuries from James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme, New Zealand posted 237-6 from 50 overs but in the the end, it did not prove to suffice as Babar Azam's fluent unbeaten 127-ball 101 took Pakistan across the line with ease.
Pakistan 241/4 in 49.1 overs (Babar Azam 101*, Haris Sohail 68, Trent Boult 1/48) beat New Zealand 237/6 in 50 overs (James Neesham 97*, Colin de Grandhomme 64, Shaheen Shah Afridi 3/28) by 6 wickets.
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