Fakhar, Babar keep afloat Pak’s semifinal chances in World Cup

By BD Naraayannkar

Bengaluru, Nov 4 (UNI) A power-packed century by Fakhar Zaman helped Pakistan pull off a sensational victory over New Zealand in a rain-hit encounter and keep their hopes alive for a semifinal berth in the ICC Cricket World Cup at Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Saturday.

The defeat for New Zealand means that South Africa are through to the semifinal along with India, and there are only two spots up for grabs now.

The match was on the verge of a classical finish if not for the rain which interrupted the proceedings twice in the second innings. Yet, it was quite an accomplishment after New Zealand posted a colossal 401/6 after Pakistan were sent into bat by Babar Azam.

Fakhar, who had a double century as his highest score in ODIs, came out and put to the sword the depleted New Zealand bowling attack, hammering the fastest World Cup century by a Pakistan player.

Fakhar left his team ahead on DLS before the rain intervened for 90 minutes, and he did not leave after the play resumed at 160/1 in 21.3 overs. He tonked the balls for huge sixes off Ish Sodhi on the leg side in pursuit of a revised chase of 342 runs in 41 overs, needing 182 runs from 19.3 overs.

Fakhar was severe on spin – be it Mitchell Santner, or Glenn Phillips, and nothing seemed to work against him. He smashed an unbeaten 126 runs off 81 balls with 8 boundaries and 11 sixes, while Babar remained not out on 66 off 63 balls with 6 boundaries and 2 sixes.

Fakhar and Babar put on an unfinished 194-run partnership for the second wicket before rain intervened for the second time.

The umpires decided to call off the match due to rain at 7-15 pm. So, Pakistan are not yet out and hope to spring a surprise or two in next encounters. It remains to be seen whether the stars play in their favour.

Earlier, Rachin Ravindra’s third ton of this tournament powered New Zealand to a huge total.

The Kiwi opener hammered a brilliant 108 off 94 balls as fans went berserk chanting “Rachin Rachin”, similar to the chants of “Sachin Sachin” the world was used to some years back.

New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson made a grand comeback after recovering from a thumb injury, but sadly fell five runs short of a century. He reached 95 from 79 balls until caught on the boundary by Fakhar Zaman off Iftikhar Ahmed barely centimetres from a six that would have brought up his ton.

Both Rachin and Williamson stitched a 180-run stand for the second wicket off just 141 balls. Initially, the Bengaluru lad combined with Devon Conway to take New Zealand’s total to 66/0 in the first powerplay.

Conway lost his wicket, and became Hasan Ali’s 100th ODI wicket. The Kiwi opener was gobbled up by Mohammad Rizwan behind the stumps for 35 off 39 balls with six boundaries.

Williamson, who returned to the team after recovering from a thumb injury, scored freely along with Rachin to put the side past 100 runs.

Pakistan bowlers hardly found any lateral movement with the new ball, although there was a bit of spongy bounce early on. Mohammad Wasim was the only exception though, who finished with 3/60.

It did not take long for Williamson and Rachin to press the accelerator, and plundered runs after Babar Azam won the toss and sent New Zealand into bat. They scored 86 runs without losing any wicket during the 21 to 30 over phase.

After Rachin and Williamson’s departures, swashbucklers Daryl Mitchell (29) and Mark Chapman (39) took over the reins to further lift the run rate as New Zealand crossed 300 runs mark by losing just three wickets with more than 10 overs still in the kitty.

The final assault was launched by Glenn Phillips (41) and Mitchell Santner (26*), who ensured that the solid foundation met its target.

Star bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi went wicketless and finished with a sombre figures of 0/90, which is the most expensive by a Pakistan bowler in World Cup history.

Pakistan, who are 1992 WC champions, need to win convincingly enough to boost their net run rate to close in on New Zealand’s rate, then follow up with another victory when they face England next Saturday to keep their semifinal dream alive.

New Zealand almost had one foot in the knockout stages when opening their World Cup with four consecutive triumphs, but three losses on the trot and injuries to key players suddenly have their campaign on a knife’s edge.

Leave a Reply