Pakistan bowed out of the Asia Cup, making way for Sri Lanka to set their date against seven-time champions India for Sunday’s final at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
Babar Azam, woefully out of form in the league stage, struck timely form after being dropped off the first ball he faced in the ICC T20 World Cup semi-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground tonight.
And the Pakistan captain punished the Kiwis for the costly lapse by wicket keeper Devon Conway off the bowling of Trent Boult, a one handed effort that the stumper couldn’t latch on to.
Taking full advantage of the largesse, Azam piloted his team into their third final in the history of the competition, and their first since winning the title in 2009, with a well-crafted half century.
Azam, who had just 39 to his credit after five games in the Super 12 stage, compiled 53 in 42 balls which was his 30th half ton. He struck 7 fours, most of them timed well.
More importantly he also put on a century partnership with his opening partner Mohammed Rizwan who too recorded a half century (57 in 43 balls with 5 fours).
The duo’s stand of 105 in 12.4 overs, their third triple digit stand in T20 World Cups and ninth overall, smoothened the path for Pakistan as they convincingly chased down New Zealand’s modest tally of 152 after rattling up 55 runs in power play and 87 at the end of ten overs.
They finally clinched the contest by seven wickets with five balls to spare with Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed being the not out batsmen at the crease
Pakistan now await the winners of the second semi-final between India and England, to be held at the Adelaide Oval tomorrow, in the final on November 13 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
It had been a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of Pakistan in the competition as they looked down for the count till South Africa shockingly lost to the Netherlands and gave their chances a fresh lease of life.
Today they fielded brilliantly, bowled with purpose and batted in determined fashion, egged on by a raucous capacity crowd filled with their flag waving and shouting supporters, to outsmart New Zealand who were aiming for their third straight entry into an ICC World Cup summit clash.
In contrast, New Zealand performed below par with the bat and the ball and even more surprisingly in their pet department, fielding too.
Electing to bat on winning the toss, New Zealand were rocked by an incisive opening spell by the tall Pakistan fast bowler Shaheen Afridi who got opener Finn Allen leg before in the third ball.
Allen’s opening partner Devon Conway was run out by a brilliantly directed throw from mid-on by Shan Masood off the last ball of power play.
And the Kiwis couldn’t recover fully from these two early blows that reduced them to 38 for two in six overs.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson rallied the side around with his classy knock of 46 in 42 balls. He was also sent back by Afridi at the right time for Pakistan, in the 17th over when he was ready to cut loose.
Daryl Mitchell’s fine counter-attacking innings of 53 off 35 balls, inclusive of 3 fours and one six, gave New Zealand a total that looked healthier before Azam got the costly reprieve and took the game away in the company of his long-time partner Rizwan.
Both were dismissed by the unlucky left arm bowler Boult in his second spell but by then the damage had been done.