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PM Imran congratulates team on 'great comeback'

Updated June 27, 2019

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Haris Sohail, right, embraces teammate Babar Azam for scoring a century during the match between New Zealand and Pakistan at the Edgbaston Stadium. — AP
Haris Sohail, right, embraces teammate Babar Azam for scoring a century during the match between New Zealand and Pakistan at the Edgbaston Stadium. — AP

Following Pakistan's thrilling win against New Zealand on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran congratulated the cricket team on "a great comeback".

"Congratulations especially go to Babar, Haris and Shaheen for their brilliant performances," said Prime Minister Imran, who led Pakistan to victory in the 1992 World Cup.

Pakistan's revival after three defeats earlier in the tournament has cricket fans as well as commentators and analysts recalling memories of the 1992 campaign, when they won the trophy after a sticky start.

"We are not thinking about 1992, we are going match by match," said winning captain Sarfaraz when asked about the striking similarities in the performance of the Green Shirts in the 1992 World Cup and the World Cup currently underway.

"Whenever we are in a corner we play our best, it was a great team effort," he said. "All the bowlers bowled well and there was some of the finest batting I have ever seen. The target of 240 was not an easy and we just wanted to play the 50 overs. Babar played one of the best innings I have ever seen. They handled the pressure so well.

The team, however, still has two matches — vs Bangladesh and then Afghanistan — left to win to make it to the semi-finals.

Through their stunning six-wicket victory, crucial to keeping the team's semifinal hopes alive, Pakistan maintained their reputation as the most unpredictable team in international cricket and ruined New Zealand’s perfect record while heaping more pressure on host England.

Babar Azam hit his 10th ODI century, finishing 101 not out off 127 balls, as Pakistan reached 241-4 in 49.1 overs in reply to New Zealand’s 237-6.

Every boundary — 11 of them from Babar — produced a huge roar and a sea of green flags in the stands as an overwhelmingly Pakistan-supporting crowd had a day to remember at Edgbaston.

Babar shared a fourth-wicket partnership of 126 with Haris Sohail, who was run out for a 76-ball 68 after hitting five fours and two sixes. Babar also put on 66 for the third wicket with Mohammad Hafeez (32).

During New Zealand's innings, left-arm seamer Shaheen Afridi (3-28) had helped reduce the Black Caps to 46-4 and 83-5, when Kane Williamson was out for 41.

Pakistan moved level on seven points with Bangladesh, one point behind fourth-place England, which has lost its last two games. The top four in the 10-team standings advance to the semifinals.

New Zealand is second with 11 points and wasted a chance to secure its place in the last four. It now has difficult games left against defending champion Australia and wounded England. It was the Black Caps’ first loss after five wins and a no result.

The New Zealanders chased down South Africa’s 241-6 on the same Edgbaston wicket earlier in the tournament. Pakistan, which is not seen as a run-chasing specialist in this format, also went to the last over on Wednesday but on this occasion it was much more comfortable.