Sunday, April 21, 2024
Sports

ICC World Cup: Luck and pluck keep gritty Pakistan alive in semifinal race

Fakhar
Pakistan's batter Fakhar Zaman celebrates his century.Credit: PTI Photo

Bengaluru, November 4: Fakhar Zaman hit an extraordinary hundred and the weather gods too smiled on ‘unpredictable’ Pakistan, who miraculously kept their semifinal hopes alive after walking away with a crucial 21-run win over New Zealand through DLS method in World Cup, here on Saturday.
Zaman (126 off 81 balls) and skipper Babar Azam (66 off 63 balls) helped Pakistan to 200 for 1 in 25.3 overs when the skies opened up for the second time to end the proceedings.
At that point Pakistan were 21 runs ahead of the DLS calculations in a daunting chase of 402 which was revised to 342 in 41 overs.
New Zealand will feel gutted after making a mammoth 401 for six, riding on Rachin Ravindra’s 94-ball 108 and comeback man Kane Williamson’s 79-ball 95.
Pakistan now have eight points with a match to go against struggling England, while New Zealand (NRR:+0.855), also on eight points, will face on-their-way-out Sri Lanka in their final league game.
Pakistan (-0.424), however, still remain at the sixth place on the table behind Afghanistan (-0.330) because of the net run rate.
Those calculations apart, those with a sense of history will trace these fateful happenings to Pakistan’s campaign in the 1992 World Cup when weather and mathematics helped them first to the semifinals and then eventually to the title.
But for all that, Pakistan on this need to be indebted to the power of Zaman, who carted the New Zealand bowlers around the park with utter disdain.
The left-hander had missed a large part of the tournament with an injury but Zaman produced a freak innings at the most opportune time to keep Pakistan in the race to the last four stage.
Zaman conjured his hundred in just 63 balls as he never gave a breathing space to the Kiwis bowlers – pacers or spinners.
His preferred scoring area was the arc between mid-wicket and long-on and the New Zealand bowlers kept on feeding to his strength.
At the other end, Babar was a comparatively quieter presence but with Zaman in full flow he did not have to attempt anything colourful.
Earlier, Ravindra made a hundred with talent written in bold letters over it, while Williamson nearly made a century on comeback as New Zealand piled up a mammoth score.
Pakistan bowlers did not have enough variations to counter a smooth Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch as Ravindra and Williamson ran them ragged after the Kiwis were asked to bat first.
It was also only the second instance in this event that a team crossed the 400-run mark after South Africa did that against Sri Lanka in New Delhi.
Pakistan (six points) need to chase the target in 35.2 overs to climb to the fourth spot, which is with the Kiwis (eight points).
The 180 runs that Ravindra, who registered his third century of the tournament, and Williamson made off 142 balls for the second wicket gave New Zealand a confident launching pad after defeats in their last three matches.
Williamson and Ravindra accelerated linearly for a large part of their alliance – well-taken singles and twos interspersed with those occasional hits to and over the ropes.
Williamson joined the action after a 68-run opening stand between Ravindra and Devon Conway, and the right-hand, left-hand combination gave a torrid time to Pakistan.
They were relentless but rather methodically. In fact, they scored only at 5.90 runs per over between 11th and 20th over before pressing the accelerator in the subsequent overs.
Even then their batting was all about class. Williamson’s backfoot punch off pacer Haris Rauf that pierced the mid-off region carried all the oomph quotient with it and he did not spare spinners as well.
Pakistan gave the containment duty to off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed but Williamson greeted him with two fours in succession – one through mid-off and the other over mid-wicket.
Ravindra’s off-side play with zero trigger movement was a sight for the sore eyes.
A flowing cover drive off pacer Hasan Ali and a withering square cut off Ahmed gave a touch of elegance, while a well-timed pull off Rauf that landed on the second tier stand over mid-on gave his innings a bit of muscle.
Ravindra brought up a popular hundred with a single off pacer Mohammad Wasim, as a good weekend crowd loudly chanted ‘Raachin Raachin.’
The 90s kids would easily have visualised stands filled with that reverberating ‘Saachin Saachin’ chants at that moment.
However, the double barrel firing came to an end when Williamson fell well within sight of his 14th ODI hundred, an attempt to clear the fence off Ahmed ended in a finely judged catch by Fakhar Zaman at long-on.
Ravindra too did not last long as his pull off Wasim was snaffled at square leg by Saud Shakeel.
Glenn Phillips (41 off 26 balls) too chipped in with some typical beefy blows as the Black Caps innings switched on the afterburners.
In total, New Zealand made 114 runs in the last 10 overs to give Pakistan a steep mountain to scale down. But Pakistan indeed did that – by bit of luck and lot of pluck. (PTI)

error: