Pakistan v New Zealand: Shaheen Afridi and Babar Azam fire to victory in T20 World Cup

Resurgent side book return to MCG after a seven-wicket victory in T20 World Cup semi-final

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Shaheen Afridi is back. Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan are back. Just as the World Cup is reaching its climax, Pakistan are purring again.

New Zealand duly despatched, they are on their way to the MCG. Many of their supporters have already got the retro replica shirts.

All they need now is for England to beat India in Thursday’s second semi-final, print off some Imran Khan tiger T-shirts, and it would be full 1992 all over again.

Back then, a Pakistan side who had stumbled through pool play beat a New Zealand team who had hitherto made all the running in the 50-over World Cup in the semi-final.

Thirty years on, so it was again. New Zealand won the toss, opted for first use of a dry wicket, but from then on were incapable of repelling the green wave.

It all started where it so often does for Pakistan: with the swing of Shaheen.

The only times the left-arm quick has failed to take wickets in this tournament were the opening two matches. It might not be a coincidence that they were the two matches Pakistan have lost.

In the four matches since, he has scalped 10. And nothing says “Shaheen is back” like a blockbuster first over.

That was exactly what he delivered in Sydney. Initially, Finn Allen, the New Zealand opener, was up for the fight, blazing the first ball of the game straight back past Shaheen for four.

Off the next, he was given lbw. Reprieved on review, the same happened off the next ball – only he had to go this time.

New Zealand only lost four wickets in their 20 overs, with Shaheen taking one more, Mohammed Nawaz picking up one, and a fine direct hit run out by Shadab Khan accounting for Devon Conway.

Limiting the Black Caps to 152, with Daryl Mitchell top-scoring with 53, was deemed a success.

All they needed was for their top order to fire, and it should be a cakewalk. Not that there have been any guarantees of that in the competition to date.

Each of Babar and Rizwan have been off colour. Both proved the adage that you cannot keep a good man down, just at the vital moment against New Zealand.

After a breezy opening stand worth 105 in 12.4 overs they posted half-centuries apiece. They were parted, when Babar fired a catch to Mitchell at long on off the bowling of Trent Boult.

But by that stage, all the hard work had been done. Rizwan did also depart before the job was done, and Pakistan's buoyant fans betrayed signs of nerves when he did.

One player who has yet to show anything approaching nerves in his international career to date, though, made light work of the job that remained.

Mohammed Haris, who has done so much to spark Pakistan's revival since arriving as an injury replacement, blazed two huge sixes off Lockie Ferguson to settle his side.

And it was left to Shan Masood to hit the winning run off the first ball of the last over.

Updated: November 09, 2022, 3:45 PM
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