Sydney: Having beaten New Zealand in their backyard to win the tri-series title recently, Pakistan will be eyeing a victory in the T20 World Cup semifinal here on Wednesday with the kind of energy that the last couple of wins have brought into their campaign.
Pakistan has had a miraculous journey into the semifinals as at one stage they were thinking of packing off their kits, but Netherlands helped them sail through by putting a brake on South Africa’s dreams to qualify into the knockout on a dramatic Sunday.
Pakistan had started their campaign badly by losing to arch rivals India in their opening match of the tournament and then losing to Zimbabwe in Super 12 encounters.
Nevertheless, they are the most dangerous side in the world which was reflected in team mentor Matthew Hyden’s inspirational speech wherein he mentioned that the team is a real threat when they start firing with intent and revealing their teeth.
The stats also are stacked in Pakistan’s favour. The Pakistanis had defeated New Zealand in the 2007 T20 World Cup, and it is a well-known fact that the Kiwis falter in big games.
New Zealand reached the semifinals on the last four occasions at the World Cup stage, but not even once did they qualify for the title clash.
Pakistan have struggled for runs from openers Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, but they could use this big-stage encounter to prove their mettle by getting a big knock under their belt, which is overdue.
Rizwan is right behind India’s Suryakumar Yadav for the leading run-scorer of 2022 in T20Is, but has given a lacklustre performance in the current T20 World Cup.
Nevertheless, the sluggish nature of the Sydney Cricket Ground would suit his style of batting with fully knowing well the New Zealand attack having recently played against them.
Shadab Khan is the x-factor in the Pakistan lineup as he is good in the batting and bowling departments. Babar might use him as a floater in the batting lineup to take on spin combo of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner, and as a bowler, he is pretty crucial at SCG which is likely to aid the turn, considering New Zealand have just one left-hander in their top five lineup.
He is fresh off a stunning heist at this ground against South Africa and would back himself to do it all over again.
New Zealand, on the other hand, have excelled as a unit across the three different phases.
New Zealand’s batting packs quite a punch, considering the powerplay exploits of Finn Allen and calculated butchery of Glenn Phillips. And, they bat deep and boast of all-situation batsmen to put to sword any opposition attack.
The bowling attack has a left-arm quick good in the powerplay, a swing bowler, a high-end pace bowler who hits the deck hard and two different kinds of spinners.
Moreover, their confidence is on a high as they have thrashed hosts Australia and won all matches, but one in this tournament so far.
Pakistan bowlers including Shaheen Shah Afrdi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf and Mohammad Wasim, can throw up a nasty challenge at their opponents, but there is no doubt that the Black Caps are equipped to blunt them, which makes for an exciting contest on paper.
Allen is the most dangerous batsman in the New Zealand side, but has managed to get only 91 runs in four innings in this tournament. However, he has an astonishing 189.58 strike rate and a task is cut out for him to get going against a searing pace attack.
If Allen gets going, nobody can stop him as he was unstoppable at Christchurch a month ago, where he tore apart the same Pakistan attack. He has the ability to turn the game on its head inside the powerplay and his teammates expect him to go all guns blazing from the word go.
Possible Playing XIs
Pakistan: Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Shan Masood, Mohammad Haris, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi
New Zealand: Finn Allen, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Glenn Phillips, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.