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Key takeaways as Pakistan swat aside New Zealand to reach first T20 WC final since 2009

On a slow, used pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Pakistan made light work of New Zealand’s competitive total to reach the final, where they will face the winners of India vs England.

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New Delhi: Pakistan’s stunning comeback streak in the Men’s T20 World Cup continued Wednesday at the Sydney Cricket Ground as Babar Azam’s side swatted aside Kane Williamson’s New Zealand side by 7 wickets with 5 balls to spare and reached their first final in the competition’s history since 2009.

Pakistan will face the winners of Thursday’s semi-final — India vs England — on Sunday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, while New Zealand will depart home to prepare for a bilateral white-ball series against India later this month and rue yet another opportunity missed.

ThePrint takes a look at some salient talking points from the encounter at the SCG.

1. Slow, used pitch reminiscent of last year’s T20 World Cup

In the days leading up to the semifinals, it was reported that both the SCG pitch and the Adelaide pitch were used tracks instead of freshly rolled ones, with the former having been previously played on 22 October, when New Zealand scored 200 against defending champions Australia and bowled them out for 111. However, Wednesday’s version of the surface was more akin to the UAE venues that hosted the 2021 Men’s T20 World Cup, than any of the fast bouncy pitches that define matches played at this time of year in Australia.

As a result, given the history of T20 matches played at the SCG, winning the toss and batting first appeared to be a no-brainer, and that’s what Blackcaps captain Kane Williamson did. But the nature of the sticky surface played right into Pakistan’s hands. Their pace attack dominated the death overs by varying their speeds and bowling into the pitch while their spin duo of Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan found enough grip and extracted enough purchase from the pitch to peg back New Zealand’s top order. New Zealand found themselves at 3 down for 59 runs at the 10 over mark and it was an uphill battle from there.

2. Babar-Rizwan partnership back in action

It wasn’t quite vintage compared to their 10-wicket chase of India’s score of 151 at Dubai last year or their 10-wicket chase of 200 against England at Karachi two months ago, but Pakistan’s opening pair Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan finally set this tournament alight in tandem. At the halfway point, New Zealand’s score of 152 appeared competitive but somewhat under par, and the Pakistani openers made it look like a complete walk in the park.

Barring an excellent early delivery from Trent Boult which drew Babar’s outside edge and a chance shelled by wicketkeeper Devon Conway, Babar and Rizwan made New Zealand’s threatening pace attack look amateurish by racing to 55-0 within the powerplay and 87-0 at 10 overs played. The Blackcaps hadn’t quite found the right changes of pace or the right lengths to trouble the duo, compared to the first innings, and were made to pay the price, as Babar and Rizwan took turns to effortlessly plunder boundaries and reduce the required run rate from 7.5 to 6 per over.

3. Premier pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi continues post-injury resurgence

At the outset of the tournament, the elephant in the room for Pakistan from a management standpoint was that they had seemingly rushed back their talisman fast bowler, Shaheen Shah Afridi, from a long-term injury, because he looked well below his best in their defeats to India and Zimbabwe. However, he turned a corner in their subsequent matches and was on top form again at the SCG, removing the dangerously aggressive opener Finn Allen on the third ball of the match with a signature full inswinger that he tried to play across the line.

In a tight spell of 2-24, he conceded just 8 runs in boundaries and collected 8 dots, varying his pace and lengths intelligently as the innings went on and piling up scoreboard pressure against the Blackcaps batsmen.

4. Daryl Mitchell rescues New Zealand in consecutive semifinals

For the second time in less than a year, when his side was reeling and in danger of a blowout, Daryl Mitchell stood tall and scored a masterful half-century under pressure. Although it wasn’t a match-winning knock this year compared to his unbeaten 72 against England at Abu Dhabi last November, Mitchell’s score was the difference between a sub-120 score and a competitive score above 150. Amid concerns over his own form after his return from a hand fracture, Mitchell had played out some scratchy innings during the Super 12 stage but outperformed his teammates today, including a captain who was scoring far too slowly.

Mitchell was the only batsman in the Blackcaps side to target the wrist spin of Shadab Khan, hitting around 40% of his runs against Pakistan’s star allrounder. Had Williamson supported him by taking a few more risks in the middle overs, New Zealand may have reached a far more challenging total.

Also read: “It’s a tough pill for us to swallow”: Kane Williamson after loss to Pakistan in World Cup semi-final


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