Pakistan kept alive their chances of reaching the World Cup semi-finals on Wednesday, cruising to a six-wicket win against previously unbeaten New Zealand at Edgbaston.
New Zealand scored 237/6 in their 50 overs but that total proved inadequate as Babar Azam scored an impressive unbeaten 101 and Haris Sohail (68) offered valuable support.
Pakistan reached their target off the first ball of their final over, finishing on 241/4.
“The wicket was difficult but my aim was to bat for 50 overs and if I did I knew Pakistan would win the match,” said man-of-the-match Babar.
“We know we’d need to score runs off the pace bowlers. Once (Mitchell) Santner came on it was doing stuff off the pitch so (Mohammad) Hafeez told me to stick at it and score three or four runs an over.”
Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side, who beat South Africa on Sunday to revive their flagging World Cup campaign, now have seven points, level with fifth-placed Bangladesh and just one point behind hosts England.
And with this win, the mercurial side also kept up the eerie similarities of their sequence of results from the championship-winning edition in 1992.
During the course of his innings, Babar became the second-fastest to reach 3,000 one-day international runs in front of thousands of fanatical Pakistan fans.
Babar, 24, took 11 innings more than South Africa’s Hashim Amla, who reached the milestone in 57 innings, but overtook West Indies great Viv Richards (69 innings).
He reached his hundred off 124 balls with 11 fours.
Earlier, Jimmy Neesham hit a career-best 97 not out while Colin de Grandhomme made 64 after New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat.
Left-arm seamer Shaheen Shah Afridi (3/28) starred as Pakistan reduced New Zealand to 83/5, with in-form captain Kane Williamson dismissed by leg-spinner Shadab Khan for 41. The two all-rounders then added 132 runs for the sixth wicket to give New Zealand a glimmer of hope with a fighting total. But Azam, and Sohail later, ensured there were no hiccups in the run-chase with the men in green largely comfortable through the course of the match.
New Zealand are second in the table on 11 points behind Australia, the only team who have qualified so far. The top four teams qualify for the semi-finals.
(With AFP inputs)