Babar, Afridi star as Pakistan end New Zealand's unbeaten run

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www.cricketworldcup.com|27-Jun-2019 10:31

A masterful knock of 101* from Babar Azam and an excellent return of 3/28 from Shaheen Shah Afridi helped Pakistan to a six-wicket win over New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday, 26 June.

After rain ensured a delayed start, Kane Williamson opted to bat, a decision that appeared questionable with the start Pakistan’s bowlers enjoyed.

Mohammad Amir went through the defence of Martin Guptill to kick things off before Shaheen unleashed a lethal spell, finding the outside-edges of Colin Munro, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham to leave New Zealand reeling on 46/4. Shadab Khan heaped more misery upon the Black Caps with the dismissal of skipper Williamson for 41. 

Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme, New Zealand's two seam-bowling all-rounders, then rescued the innings to halt fears of a major collapse. The pair took their time: Neesham reached 50 from 75 balls while de Grandhomme – renowned for his big-hitting skills – displayed his adaptability with a measured half-century of his own.

While a run-out ended de Grandhomme's stay, Neesham continued to be a thorn in Pakistan's side, and finished his and New Zealand's innings with a six that took him to an ODI career-best 97*, and his side to 237/6, an impressive score on a challenging pitch. 

Fakhar Zaman perished early in the chase, and a vicious bouncer from Lockie Ferguson saw to the end of Imam-ul-Haq on 19, Martin Guptill diving forward from point to take an excellent catch after the ball popped up off the left-hander's bat.

From there, Hafeez and Babar calmed the nerves of the thousands of Pakistan fans with a 66-run partnership. The part-time off-spin of Williamson then intervened for an unlikely breakthrough, as Hafeez holed out to Ferguson into the deep to leave Pakistan 110/3.

Haris Sohail – following on from his 89 against South Africa last Sunday – entered the fray and proceeded to be a more-than-capable partner for Azam as he hit a second consecutive half-century.  With vociferous support to boost them, the pair took Pakistan to victory, with New Zealand succumbing to their first loss of the tournament.