T20 Semi-final 1 : New Zealand hopes to break knockout jinx against Pakistan

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The rest of the batting order has a healthy mix of bashers and floaters and enough left and right-handed options…reports Asian Lite News

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.

Williamson lauds bowlers ahead of semi-final

Ahead of their crucial semi-final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup against Pakistan, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson on Tuesday lavished praise on his bowling attack, saying that they’ve been outstanding throughout this tournament.

The Kiwis delivered an outstanding performance in the Super 12s and finished right at the top of Group 1. While there were some breathtaking batting performances throughout the tournament, the BlackCaps skipper thinks the consistency of his bowlers also played a pivotal role in their journey to the semifinals.

“I mean, they’re experienced players for us. They’ve played for us a long time, whether that’s taking wickets or, in particular, adjusting to conditions which certainly we need them to come to tournaments, world events, that’s a big part of playing,” Williamson said in the pre-match press conference.

“So they’ve been outstanding throughout this tournament. And tomorrow we’re at another venue against another opposition, and we’ll have to make those adjustments again,” he added.

Three of the five bowlers New Zealand has used in this tournament have maintained an economy rate of less than seven.

Tim Southee (6.35), Mitchell Santner (6.43) and Ish Sodhi (6.78) have been outstanding. Only Lockie Ferguson (8.13) and Trent Boult (7.18) have been a little expensive but they have also done the job for the Kiwis as they have been real wicket-taking forces.

Williamson also went on to talk about the venue and the conditions. They have played in Sydney twice in this tournament already but he doesn’t think it’s going to be an advantage for them going in the match tomorrow.

“I suppose it’s kind of interesting, the first game we played here, the wicket was a very good one. And then the second time we played here it had changed. And sometimes you can take perhaps what you were expecting the wicket to be like in the first game and think it would behave in the same way, which it didn’t,” he said.

“Whether that’s a disadvantage or an advantage, it’s sort of hard to know. Both teams have played here. So we need to focus on our cricket really and the plans we want to look to execute and make sure we do adjust to the conditions and try and play smart,” he added.

New Zealand and Pakistan engaged in a tri-series, which also involved Bangladesh, ahead of this World Cup.

The Kiwis lost to Pakistan in the final and when Williamson was asked to reflect on the relevance of that series to this important match, he said, “I mean, we have a strong team. We know it’s going to be a tough match. Both teams are going to play in the semi, playing some good cricket throughout. The past is the past, and I think both teams are looking forward to tomorrow.”

But the 32-year-old is well aware of the strength of Pakistan’s pace attack and understands that their batters really need to be at the top of their game while facing them.

“They’ve got an outstanding pace attack. Like I mentioned, they’ve been playing really good cricket. They’ve got very experienced players on their side, who are match-winners. So, that’s a real strength for them,” he said.

New Zealand have been a really consistent side when it comes to ICC events. They were the runner-ups in the 2019 ODI World Cup and also in the T20 World Cup last year. Now they are in the semi-finals once again and will be eager to make it all the way to the final.

Asked about the secret behind their consistency in major tournaments, the stylish batter said ‘it’s just focusing on our cricket.’

“You come to these tournaments, and as we’ve seen, all teams can beat each other and it’s definitely a pretty exciting event. I guess you’re going through it trying to adjust to conditions as quickly as possible, make those changes to the different opposition and really go out and try and express yourselves,” Williamson said.

“It’s been nice that we’ve been able to see that throughout this competition. And certainly, want to be doing that again tomorrow,” he concluded.

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