T20 World Cup, Semifinal 1: Resurgent Pakistan, clinical New Zealand lock horns at SCG for berth in final
Sydney: A resurgent Pakistan and clinical New Zealand, who have had contrasting campaigns so far, will lock horns in a mouth-watering first semifinal of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), here on Wednesday, with a common goal to book the berth in the all-important final of the mega event.
The Babaz Azam-led side lost their first two matches of the T20 World Cup against India and Zimbabwe and were on the verge of getting knocked out. However, they performed when it mattered, got a lifeline and now have a golden opportunity to go all the way in the tournament.
On the other hand, New Zealand began their campaign in style by thrashing the hosts Australia and eventually won four out of five Super 12 matches. They just lost to England in a high-quality contest but otherwise have been quite clinical in their efforts so far.
Pakistan have two consolidating openers in Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam, who have struggled for runs in the tournament but if there’s one occasion where their team would expect one of the most consistent T20I batters to step up, it is a knockout game.
Rizwan, who is right behind Suryakumar Yadav for the leading run-scorer of 2022 in T20I, knows the Black Caps’ attack pretty well having recently played against them, and the sluggish nature of the SCG wicket would suit his style of batting too.
The rest of the batting order has a healthy mix of bashers and floaters and enough left and right-handed options.
Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan have been Pakistan’s saviours in the middle order and they would look to continue their good form while the likes of Shan Masood, Mohammad Haris too had few decent outings and could be handy as well.
The 24-year-old Shadab has been the x-factor in the Pakistan line-up and he might be used as a floater in the batting line-up to counter the spin duo of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner.
With the SCG likely to aid some turn and New Zealand’s top five having just one left-hander, Shadab’s role would also be pretty crucial in the bowling as well. Rest of the Pakistan bowling line-up has world-class pace attack that has been dominating in this T20 World Cup.
Meanwhile, the Kane Williamson-led New Zealand have excelled as a unit across the three different phases.
From Finn Allen’s Powerplay exploits to Glenn Phillips’ calculated onslaughts, New Zealand’s batting packs quite a punch. They bat deep and have batters for any situation in the game.
New Zealand opener Allen has made only 91 runs in this tournament in four innings, but his incredible strike rate of 189.58 makes him the most dangerous batter in the Black Caps team. Against a searing pace attack, his task will be cut out, but if he gets going, one can expect New Zealand to come out on top.
Allen’s opening partner Devon Conway has also played crucial knocks while skipper Williamson brought that fluency back in his batting during the team’s last Super 12 game against Ireland.
New Zealand’s only concern is the batting form of Daryl Mitchell and James Neesham, who haven’t been able to perform as per their expectations. The team would want them to come good in the knockouts.
The Blacks Caps also have a well-rounded bowling attack. They have a left-arm quick in Trent Boult who has been good in the Powerplay, an experienced swing bowler in Tim Southee and a high-end pace bowler in form of Lockie Ferguson, who hits the deck hard.
Two quality spinners — Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi — will also look to take the advantage of a spin-friendly pitch at SCG and rattle opposition batters.
Both teams are unbeaten at the SCG in the tournament — New Zealand downed Australia and Sri Lanka there while Pakistan thrashed South Africa — which makes the semifinal even more exciting.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner, Glenn Phillips, Jimmy Neesham, Daryl Mitchell, Adam Milne, Martin Guptill, Lachlan Ferguson, Devon Conway, Mark Chapman, Michael Bracewell, Trent Boult, Finn Allen.