Brimingham, Jun 25: Pakistan will continue their battle of survival when they face an unstoppable New Zealand in a must-win World Cup clash here at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
Another win should all but seal New Zealand’s spot in the semi-finals, while for Pakistan, it would be the bare minimum they need to do to remain in contention.
The tournament’s most consistent team against its most unpredictable one. New Zealand are unbeaten in this World Cup. Pakistan have done what Pakistan do best – they have fluttered between being indifferent and being spectacular. It makes it impossibly hard to determine which way this contest will go, and it’s the kind of uneasy excitement this tournament needs as teams begin to scrap ever more intensely for the final four spots.
A win for New Zealand should more or less take them there. Kane Williamson’s men have been outstanding across departments, led by the captain himself. Ross Taylor has been a supporting act, but an effective one at that, while Colin de Grandhomme has struck vital runs and chipped in with economical overs to complement the pace attack.
Speaking of pace, Lockie Ferguson’s fearsome speeds have made him one of the most exciting prospects to watch in this tournament. Trent Boult continues to penetrate the best defences with his swing, while Matt Henry and James Neesham have all chipped in consistently. In a tournament where wrist-spinners were expected to rule, New Zealand’s performance is the ultimate proof that pace is still the order of the day.
Pakistan were excellent against South Africa, but they are now at the stage where they need to sustain that throughout the matches that remain. They have been woefully slow to start and it has left them to play some hard catch-up. There is little doubt, however, that Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men can pull it off.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Tom Blundell (wk), Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Ish Sodhi, Henry Nicholls, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Jimmy Neesham
Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (c, wk), Asif Ali, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Imam-ul-Haq, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Fakhar Zaman. (UNI)