Pakistan earned a spot in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 semifinals after a dramatic end to the Super 12 stage of the competition in Australia. The 2009 champions were on the brink of elimination but will now face New Zealand in the first semifinals, scheduled to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
The similarities to 1992 are, expectedly, making the rounds. A perfect storm is brewing.
Pakistan began the tournament with a last-ball defeat to arch rivals India, before a shock loss to Zimbabwe. But they bounced back by defeating Netherlands, South Africa and Bangladesh in their next three matches.
It was, however, the Dutch team’s victory against the Proteas that paved the way forward for Pakistan. South Africa’s stunning defeat on the final day of the group stage allowed Babar Azam and Co to advance to the semifinals by the barest of margins.
New Zealand, who know a thing or two about such margins, had a much smoother journey to the knockouts. Kane Williamson’s team started its campaign with a resounding win against hosts, defending champions and Trans-Tasman rivals Australia.
They went on to gain a point from the Afghanistan match before losing to England, but comfortable victories against Sri Lanka and Ireland secured the top spot for them in Group 1.
Pakistan in the Super 12 stage
|India||Melbourne||Lost by 4 wickets|
|Zimbabwe||Perth||Lost by 1 run|
|Netherlands||Perth||Won by 6 wickets|
|South Africa||Sydney||Won by 33 runs|
|Bangladesh||Adelaide||Won by 5 wickets|
New Zealand in the Super 12 stage
|Australia||Sydney||Won by 89 runs|
|Sri Lanka||Sydney||Won by 65 runs|
|England||Brisbane||Lost by 20 runs|
|Ireland||Adelaide||Won by 35 runs|
In terms of batting, skipper Azam’s indifferent form has been a disappointment for Pakistan. The right-hander has been one of the most prolific performers in world cricket for the past few years and his team will hope he finds his best in the knockouts. Mohammad Rizwan, Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed have chipped in with the bat, with Ahmed in particular being a major asset in the middle order.
Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Wasim led the bowling department for Pakistan in the Super 12s, with the reliable Haris Rauf not far behind. Shadab’s fielding, contributions with the bat, and the pressure he builds in the middle overs are critical for his team. While Afridi, who is playing his comeback tournament after a long injury layoff, is starting to find his best and picked career-best figures of 4/22 in the last game against Bangladesh.
Top Pakistan batters in Super 12s
Top Pakistan bowlers in Super 12s
While Pakistan have no one in the top 10 run-getters of the tournament at the end of the league stage, Glenn Phillips has been a big positive for New Zealand, having scored a match-winning century against Sri Lanka. Even apart from that, he has been striking the ball brilliantly. Captain Williamson’s knock in the last match against Ireland, after a run of low scores, is also a promising sign.
As far as the bowling is concerned, no New Zealand player has had a standout tournament but what has worked for the team is the fact that the unit has been consistent as a whole and got the job done. Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Ish Sodhi and Trent Boult are the only five bowlers that have been used and this decision has brought with it a sense of stability.
Top New Zealand batters in Super 12s
Top New Zealand bowlers in Super 12s
Trent Boult vs Babar Azam: Agreed, Azam has been far from his best in the tournament but the impact his early wicket can have on the contest is undeniable. A solid start for the right-hander will give immense confidence to Pakistan, and New Zealand will hope Boult can stop that from happening. The left-arm pacer hasn’t been in particularly good form either but his in-swing to right-handers remains a major threat at the start of the innings. The battle between these two stars of the white-ball game could set the tone for the rest of the match.
Shaheen Afridi vs Kane Williamson: Afridi is Pakistan’s star bowler and Williamson is New Zealand’s star batter and in a way, both are on the path to returning to their best. Afridi struggled for rhythm in the early stage of the tournament but seems to be bowling with a lot more venom now. The class of Williamson can never be doubted and the quick runs he got against Ireland will surely give him confidence. This is another battle between two big players, the winner of which will provide his team a psychological edge.
Lockie Ferguson vs Iftikhar Ahmed: Pakistan have relied on Ahmed’s power in the death overs so far in the tournament. His wicket holds great value if Pakistan get off to a poor start and New Zealand will hope that Lockie Ferguson, with his pace, can dominate the death overs.
Shadab Khan vs Glenn Phillips: This is a battle between two in-form, confident players. Khan is a trump card of sorts for Pakistan, as he operates in the middle overs and can pull the game back for his team with economical bowling. Phillips, meanwhile, is clearly the most dangerous player for New Zealand in the middle order. Khan is consistent with his subtle variations and can test the best, but Phillips’s power can’t be discounted either.
Matthew Hayden, Pakistan team mentor: “New Zealand got 200 on this particular wicket against Australia. And Devon Conway was incredibly destructive during that particular match. I think New Zealand had some really destructive players, you can be put under pressure with the bat. They’ve also got a terrific bowling attack, a well-balanced bowling attack. Good mixture of experience. I even played against Tim Southee, that goes to show you how much experience that team has got. Lockie Ferguson has great pace, lots of experience in T20 cricket as well so poses good threats. And they’ve got good off-pace bowling as well. I think like New Zealand sport, in general, they really punch above their weight. They believe they can win this tournament and they’ve got the potential to do that. So lots of threats to our camp, no question.”
Kane Williamson, New Zealand captain: “Pakistan are a strong side. A very well-balanced side. In this format, it can be fickle. You’re certainly trying to take the risks required you need to move your team forward. And as we know the quality they have. They have got an understanding pace attack, they’ve been playing really good cricket. Very experienced players on their side, match winners. So real strength.”
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Haris.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Finn Allen, Trent Boult, Michael Bracewell, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway (wk), Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Adam Milne, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.
NZ vs PAK at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup
|New Zealand||PAK won||6 wickets||NZ||v Pakistan||Cape Town||22 Sep 2007|
|New Zealand||PAK won||6 wickets||NZ||v Pakistan||The Oval||13 Jun 2009|
|New Zealand||NZ won||1 runs||PAK||v Pakistan||Bridgetown||8 May 2010|
|New Zealand||PAK won||13 runs||PAK||v Pakistan||Pallekele||23 Sep 2012|
|New Zealand||NZ won||22 runs||NZ||v Pakistan||Mohali||22 Mar 2016|
|New Zealand||PAK won||5 wickets||PAK||v Pakistan||Sharjah||26 Oct 2021|
|New Zealand||-||-||NZ||v Pakistan||Sydney||9 Nov 2022|
All stats tables courtesy ESPNcricinfo. New Zealand’s semifinal against Pakistan will begin at the Sydney Cricket Ground at 1.30 pm IST on Wednesday, November 9.