Pakistan simply have to win their remaining three 2019 World Cup matches to have any hope of qualifying for the semi-finals, with England’s earlier slip-up against Sri Lanka opening up the tournament.
On paper, it seems a straightforward proposition but it will be anything but that on Wednesday when the Men in Green take on unbeaten New Zealand in Birmingham.
After a comprehensive loss to India, Pakistan struck back with a thumping win over South Africa. However, their job will only get tougher against Kane Williamson’s Kiwis who will make it to the semis should they win.
MOHAMMAD AMIR v LOCKIE FERGUSON
New Zealand pacer Lockie Ferguson.
We are seeing a rejuvenated Mohammad Amir at this tournament, who is among the leading wicket-takers after struggling to pick up a wicket for the whole of the 2018/19 season.
The swing and pace is back, which has forced the opposition to see out his new ball spell and go after other bowlers. It’s just that he hasn’t received consistent support from the other end. He will be raring to have a go against Kiwi openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro who were out for golden ducks in the previous match.
His battle against Williamson will decide the outcome of the match as the Kiwi skipper has gone from strength to strength, putting in scores of 40, 79*, 106* and 148. The Kiwis will be hoping that trend continues.
And while Pakistan will be relying on Amir to keep the experienced Kiwi batting line-up in check, the Blackcaps have a gun pacer in their own line-up to strike back with.
Lockie Ferguson has been firing on all cylinders so far, picking up 14 wickets from five games while being among the top three fastest bowlers of the tournament. His sizzling pace in the middle overs offer New Zealand unprecedented control and precision.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood said it will be imperative to make an impact with the new ball in the opening powerplay.
“They are a very strong side and have won all their games,” Mahmood said.
“They’ve got match-winners in their side, so it’s going to be crucial for us to take wickets with the new ball. And when we bat, we need to get runs up front.
“If we can get our discipline right like last game – in batting, bowling and fielding – then we can beat any side. If we do the basics right, it’s just about us, not them.”
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c and wk), Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi