The essence of New Zealand’s fabulous journey in the World T20 lies in its ability to rise to varied challenges. On Tuesday, the Black Caps thwarted Pakistan’s forceful run-chase, powered by opener Sharjeel Khan’s blistering knock, to notch up a 22-run victory and book a spot in the semifinals.
The pitch at the PCA Stadium here promised a lot for the batsmen and Kane Williamson did not think twice while opting to bat. On the back of Martin Guptill’s superb 80, New Zealand amassed 180 and fought well to restrict Pakistan to 158.
Guptill’s fearless innings spurred New Zealand to a great start, as it accumulated 55 runs off the six Power Play overs. The opener picked the length early to play the big shots and hit Mohammad Amir for three fours in an over.
Guptill put up an entertaining 62-run opening stand with Williamson. Enjoying the run feast, the Kiwi skipper did not mind playing second fiddle.
Guptill's clinical hitting
Pakistan picking up two quick wickets — Williamson and Colin Munro — had little effect on Guptill, who carried on with his clinical hitting, featuring three straight sixes, to get his 10th half-century in T20 Internationals.
Guptill and Corey Anderson (21) built another fast-paced stand, 52 off 34, before the opener played on in the 15th over. Ross Taylor (36 not out) led the way at the death as New Zealand gathered 53 in the last five overs.
While most of the Pakistan bowlers struggled to find their rhythm, Mohd. Sami kept it tight to pick up two wickets. Left-arm spinner Imad Wasim impressed with his variety, while Afridi gave away too many runs for his two.
Pakistan’s reply was more than befitting. When Sharjeel (47 off 25) ruthlessly butchered the New Zealand attack, it seemed as if Pakistan would make a mockery of the tall target.
Sanity returned to the New Zealand camp after the departure of Sharjeel, who sledge-hammered Mitchell Santner for three fours and Mitchell McClenaghan for three fours and a six in their first overs. He fell to a high catch at point off Adam Milne.
New Zealand captured the wickets of Khalid Latif and Ahmed Shehzad (30) to gain more ground and decelerate Pakistan’s progress. It seized another key moment by removing the dangerous Afridi, brilliantly caught by a jumping Anderson at long-off in the 16th over.
Pakistan ran out of steam as New Zealand benefited from the tidy bowling of Milne, Sodhi and Santner and the good work of its fielders.