Resurgent Pakistan have set their sights on T20 World Cup glory after defeating New Zealand in Wednesday's semi-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan set the team off on a flying start in pursuit of 153, putting on a 105-run opening stand in 12.4 overs to set up victory and a place in Sunday's showpiece against either India or England.
If Babar had been under pressure after making just 39 runs in the tournament's Super 12 stage, he did not show it, reaching his fifty off 38 balls in front of 36,443 strongly pro-Pakistan spectators in Sydney.
Rizwan's half-century followed, off 32 balls, and they went on to become the first opening pair to post three century stands in T20 World Cup history before Babar fell for 53 off 42 balls off the bowling of Trent Boult. Rizwan scored 50 off 36 balls before being dismissed in the 17th over, also by Boult.
By then only 21 runs were needed off 18 balls and Pakistan closed it out with five balls to spare. “Me and Babar were struggling with the pitches, with the new ball and the swing. But we always believed in ourselves, we always keep fighting,” said Rizwan, who was named player of the match.
“As soon as we crossed the boundary line, we wanted to take on the new ball. We knew the pitch was tricky, we thought 150 was a good total on that pitch but we knew we could take them on.”
Pakistan's seven-wicket win capped a remarkable comeback from the 2009 T20 World Cup winners who had been on the brink of elimination after last-ball defeats to India and Zimbabwe in their first two matches.
“I don't think we have seen our best yet, which is probably the scarier part for whoever faces us,” said former Australia opening batsman Matthew Hayden, who has been a mentor to the team. “Sky's the limit. You can never beat down class.”
“The team has performed so well in the last three matches and they followed that today,” added Babar. “I want to thank the crowd, it feels like we are playing at home.
“We will enjoy this moment but at the same time we have got to focus on the final.”
Pakistan's bowlers set the tone after Babar lost the toss with Finn Allen hitting Shaheen Afridi's first ball for four but was then given out lbw next ball. It was overturned on review only for Afridi to promptly do the same again and this time it was plumb.
Conway was run out for 21 by Shadab Khan and they suffered a big blow when Glenn Phillips was caught and bowled by Mohammad Nawaz for six.
Daryl Mitchell and Williamson took more risks after reaching the 10-over mark at 59-3, with the first six of the innings coming in the 13th over.
Captain Kane Williamson fell on 46 to an Afridi yorker before Mitchell, unbeaten on 53, and Jimmy Neesham, who scored 16, added 29 runs in the final three overs.
“It is a tough pill to swallow,” said Williamson. “Babar and Rizwan put us under pressure but if we are honest with ourselves, we should have been more disciplined. They deserved to be the winners of that game.
“We have played a lot of good cricket, we have stuck to what has given us a lot of success but today we weren't at our best.”