5 takeaways from Pakistan's controlled dismantling of NZ in World Cup fixture

June 27, 2019

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New Zealand's batsman Colin de Grandhomme, right, is run out as Pakistan's captain Sarfaraz Ahmed walks away during the Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and Pakistan at the Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham on June 26. — AP
New Zealand's batsman Colin de Grandhomme, right, is run out as Pakistan's captain Sarfaraz Ahmed walks away during the Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and Pakistan at the Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham on June 26. — AP

Pakistan kept themselves in the running for a World Cup 2019 semi-finals berth with a six-wicket win over New Zealand on Wednesday.

Here are the five key takeaways from the game:

1) Good toss to lose

After the debacle against India, Sarfaraz Ahmed could never have chosen to field first — not so soon and not in a must-win game at least.

Colin de Grandhomme avoids a bouncer during the match. ─ AP
Colin de Grandhomme avoids a bouncer during the match. ─ AP

Kane Williamson did Pakistan a favour by making the choice, which in hindsight proved to be the right one for the Men in Green.

Pakistan are notoriously poor chasers but when targets are modest, they have a shot. And at Edgbaston, the target was kept modest, thanks to the conditions which the Pakistan pacers exploited masterfully by having a go with the ball before the Black Caps.

Thank you, Kane Williamson.

2) Afridi, the real difference maker

Ten overs, three maidens, 20 runs conceded and three frontline batsmen dismissed.

Shaheen Shah Afridi (left) took three wickets in his side's World Cup victory against New Zealand. ─ AP
Shaheen Shah Afridi (left) took three wickets in his side's World Cup victory against New Zealand. ─ AP

It wasn’t a fiver for Shaheen Afridi but let us not forget that it was the groundwork he laid on which Babar Azam capitalised in the second half of the innings.

Statistics and numbers mean that you cannot deny a century-maker the Man of the Match award but without Afridi’s calculated devastation, there may not have been a century to talk about as the target may not have been in the reachable 230s zone. The boy missed out on the gong but he, too, deserved something to remember this game by.

3) Azam gets no love

The moment calls for an over-the-top write-up on Azam. You score an unbeaten ton in a near must-win game, you deserve to be waxed lyrical about. But such are the high standards we hold Azam to, such is his promise, that it actually makes sense to not heap praise on him at all.

Babar Azam raises his fist to celebrate scoring a century. ─ AP
Babar Azam raises his fist to celebrate scoring a century. ─ AP

This is what we expect him to deliver. This 24-year-old is envisioned to one day be known as the best batsman Pakistan has ever produced. When that is the potential career trajectory, you cannot go gaga over one World Cup 100 against an unbeaten side in a game your team could not have afforded to lose.

That we do not praise him for this knock is, in a way, his praise. For everyone else, the standards are same, for Azam they’re different — higher different. He’ll earn our praise when he does something Supermanly. For mere-mortals feats, he gets nada.

Read: World Cup hero Babar Azam says belief is key for Pakistan

4) Sarfaraz needs to be talked about

There is a third person who needs to be discussed and probably be apologised to but he would fly under the radar, even though he is the captain himself. For a side that has 15-plus dropped catches in the tournament so far, Sarfaraz had no business taking THAT catch.

Diving full length with one arm so stretched that he was in the slip cordon, Sarfaraz, or any other keeper could have been forgiven for spilling it. Only Sarfaraz hung on, and sent the dangerous Ross Taylor packing and inspired memes of the good kind.

In all, the skipper took three catches, was involved in a run-out and generally marshaled his troops well. When on a bad day his neck is on the line, then on a good one he should hold his head high.

5) Hard work is done

With that win, most of the hard work is done. Bangladesh are no slouches but they can be beaten. And Afghanistan, well they are Afghanistan.

Sarfaraz Ahmed leads the team from the field as they celebrate after defeating South Africa by 49 runs. ─ AP
Sarfaraz Ahmed leads the team from the field as they celebrate after defeating South Africa by 49 runs. ─ AP

After all the funny and not-so-funny business, the team is back on track. Follow the plan, keep your heads and there is a good chance that the team makes the semis. From there on, whatever happens, happens. Even if a 1992 repeat doesn't happen, the team and its fans would have gotten their money's worth.