Trent Boult celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Mitchell Starc in the opening game. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
All you need to know ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup semifinal between the Black Caps and Pakistan at the Sydney Cricket Ground (match begins at 9pm):
The in-form Black Caps return to a happy hunting ground tonight to meet a pace-packed, recharged Pakistan in the first of the Twenty20 World Cup semifinals.
New Zealand made a rollicking start to the Super 12 stage at the Sydney Cricket Ground last month when they thrashed host Australia by 89 runs, a win that avenged a defeat in last year’s world T20 final and a margin that ultimately cost the defending champions a spot in the semifinals.
Glenn Phillips smashed a century at the SCG later to outscore Sri Lanka as the Kiwis topped Group 1 on superior net run-rate after finishing equal on seven competition points with England and Australia.
Pakistan got a barely believable entry into the semis after South Africa’s shocking 13-run loss to Netherlands on Sunday, one of the biggest upsets in a global limited-overs tournament. Now Pakistan is one win away from a final.
Had South Africa not stumbled yet again in a major ICC event, Pakistan’s win over Bangladesh wouldn’t have been enough to lift Babar Azam’s lineup into the playoff stage.
Pakistan had a bumpy start but, like 2021 runners-up New Zealand, has fond memories of SCG where Shadab Khan’s brilliant maiden T20 international half-century and two wickets in two balls led them to victory over South Africa in the group stage.
After starting with back-to-back last-over losses in Group 2 to archrival India and Zimbabwe, Pakistan regrouped with wins over Netherlands, South Africa and Bangladesh but still needed a favor from Netherlands to sneak into the semifinals for a record sixth time.
The stars seemed to align for Pakistan, which 30 years ago came from nowhere to lift the 50-over World Cup trophy under Imran Khan in Australia. After sneaking into the semifinals in ’92, Khan’s famous ‘cornered tigers’ Pakistan lineup beat New Zealand and England.
The inclusion of power-hitter Mohammad Haris in place of injured Fakhar Zaman sparked new life in an otherwise struggling top order as he blasted 28 off 11 balls against South Africa and then hammered 31 off 18 deliveries against Bangladesh in a five-wicket victory.
The luxury of having two spinning all-rounders Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan, who both can bat as high as No. 4, allowed Pakistan to include Mohammad Wasim as the fourth fast bowler. Pakistan went with five specialist bowlers and left out Wasim against India before Virat Kohli played the T20 innings of his life and took the match away from them.
The struggles of Babar and Mohammad Rizwan’s opening partnership is another headache for Pakistan with just one half century stand between them in four games. Rizwan scored 103 runs in five innings, while Babar had four single-digit scores before he struggled to make 25 against Bangladesh.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, back from knee injury, appeared to get his bowling rhythm back with a four-wicket haul against Bangladesh. And with Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah also in the ranks, Pakistan has a formidable pace attack to challenge New Zealand batters.
Kane Williamson’s team also lost the triangular series final at home to Pakistan just before the T20 World Cup, but New Zealand’s only loss since arriving in Australia was against England.
In Finn Allen and Devon Conway, the Kiwis have formidable openers. Williamson, Phillips and Daryl Mitchell form the nucleus of the middle-order. Williamson, who struggled with his strike rate in the earlier matches, hit form against Ireland in the last group game with 61 off 35 balls.
Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner leads the New Zealand wicket-takers with eight in four games, although the pace trio of Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Tim Southee have picked 20 wickets between them.
Williamson said for all the focus on batting at this tournament, the consistency and threat of New Zealand’s bowling attack may have been overshadowed.
“They’ve played for us a long time, whether that’s taking wickets or, in particular, adjusting to conditions,” he said. “They’ve been outstanding throughout this tournament. And tomorrow we’re at another venue against another opposition, and we’ll have to make those adjustments again.”
The toss could be crucial for both teams as five out of six games at the SCG in this tournament have been won by teams batting first.
What history says:
Pakistan are looking to book their third spot in a Twenty20 World Cup final. They lost to India in the first ever final in 2007 after beating the Black Caps by six wickets in Cape Town in the semis. Two years later they lifted the trophy with an eight wicket win over Sri Lanka at Lord’s. They haven’t been in the semifinals since 2012.
The Black Caps were losing finalists at last year’s tournament where they went down to Australia in Dubai. It is the third straight T20 tournament they have reached the semifinals. The 2014 T20 World Cup was the last time they failed to reach the final four of an ICC tournament.
In the 50-over World Cup, Pakistan have twice beaten New Zealand in the semifinals, stunning the home favorites at Eden Park in 1992 and then earned a dominant nine wicket win seven years later in Manchester.
New Zealand: $1.78
Umpires: Marais Erasmus (SA) and Richard Illingworth (Eng)
Head to head:
NZ won: 11
Pakistan won: 17
New Zealand XI (Likely): Finn Allen, Devon Conway †, Kane Williamson (c), Glenn Phillips, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Michael Bracewell/Ish Sodi, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.
Pakistan XI (Likely): Mohammad Rizwan †, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Haris, Shan Masood, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Last five games:
October 14, Christchurch – Pakistan won by five wickets
October 11, Christchurch – New Zealand won by nine wickets
October 8, Christchurch – Pakistan won by six wickets
October 26, 2021, Sharjah – Pakistan won by five wickets
December 22, 2020, Napier – Pakistan won by four wickets
Form (last five matches):
New Zealand: W, L, W, Aban, W
Pakistan: W, W, W, L, L
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, it will be mostly sunny in Sydney with a slight chance of a shower. Max of 23.
Catching the action:
The Herald will be live blogging the semifinal.
The match is screened on Sky Sport 1 and live streaming on Sky Sport Now from 8.30pm. Live coverage also from The Alternative Commentary Collective featuring Jeremy Wells, Leigh Hart and Jason Hoyte on Sky Sport 9 from 9pm. Text CRICKET to 3236 for all the details.