Birmingham: Babar Azam’s maiden World Cup century and Shaheen Afridi’s performance with the ball helped Pakistan secure a seven-wicket win over New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday. Chasing a target of 238 on a tricky pitch, Babar ended unbeaten on 101 off 127 balls.
Babar shared a 126-run stand with Haris Sohail, who was dismissed in the penultimate over of the match on 68. Shaheen Afridi starred with figures of 3/28 in his 10 overs as Pakistan reduced New Zealand to 83/5 in the 27th over. James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme then put up a 132-run stand to give their bowlers something to fight for.
Pakistan were in the driver’s seat for most of the chase. New Zealand started their defence promisingly with Trent Boult dismissing Fakhar Zaman off the last ball of the third over. Imam-ul-Haq then fell to Lockie Ferguson in the 11th over.
Mohammad Hafeez and Babar then pegged back the New Zealand bowlers however with a 66-run stand that came off 87 balls for the third wicket. However, their steady progress was halted when Hafeez went for a rash hook off Kane Williamson and ended up putting it straight down the throat of the fielder at cow corner. It was a continuation of his failures against part-timers in this tournament, having previously fallen to Aaron Finch and Aiden Markram in similar fashion.
However, Haris then came in and gave Babar able company to almost see Pakistan through to the end. Haris, who had scored 89 off 59 balls against South Africa, hit five fours and two sixes on his way to 68 off 76. He was run out by Martin Guptill in the penultimate over by which time Pakistan’s victory was all but confirmed. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed hit a four off the first ball of the last over to finish the chase.
Earlier, New Zealand’s top order was blown away by Shaheen Afridi. Shadab Khan dismissed the influential Williamson on 41 while Mohammad Amir chipped in with the wicket of opener Guptill. Colin de Grandhomme and James Neesham’s 132-run stand then bailed them out. De Grandhomme was eventually run out and Neesham ended the innings unbeaten on 97.
Brief scores: New Zealand: 237/6 in 50 overs (James Neesham 97 not out, Colin de Grandhomme 64; Shaheen Afridi 3/28) against Pakistan: 241/4 in 49.1 overs (Babar Azam 101 not out, Haris Sohail 68; Kane Williamson 1/39)
Pakistan win by six wickets (with 5 balls remaining)