Pakistan never stopped believing, says Rizwan
SYDNEY: Pakistan will continue their rollercoaster ride at the T20 World Cup into the final after beating New Zealand by seven wickets at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday and opener Mohammad Rizwan admitted that his side never stopped believing.
After agonising last-ball losses to India and Zimbabwe in the group phase, Pakistan bounced back to topple the Netherlands and South Africa.
Then against the odds they went through to the last four when the Proteas were stunned by the Dutch and Pakistan eased past Bangladesh.
Pakistan, who last claimed the title in 2009 at Lord’s in England when they beat Sri Lanka by eight wickets, now await the winner of Thursday’s semi-final between India and England in Adelaide. The final will be played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
“It means a lot [to reach the final],” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam. “We did not start the tournament well but after South Africa lost we took our opportunity and we are playing our best cricket and in the final.”
Riding the momentum of their great escape from the group stage, the 2009 champions lost the toss but still looked charged with confidence from the moment Shaheen Shah Afridi took the ball for the opening over.
They restricted New Zealand to just 152-4 with some razor sharp fielding and disciplined bowling before Rizwan (57) and Babar (53) finally found their scoring touch as they took apart the Black Caps’ renowned bowling attack in a blockbuster opening partnership.
Babar and Rizwan had failed to deliver on their considerable reputations in the group stage but made up for it in some style in front of 36,443 strongly pro-Pakistan spectators,
“Thanks to the crowd,” said Babar. “Feels like we are playing at home. We’re going to enjoy this moment. But at the same time have focus on the final.”
Powerplay performance was the difference between the two sides. While New Zealand was restricted to 38-2 in their first six overs, Pakistan scored 55-0 in the powerplay.
“Obviously, me and Babar decided to go after the new ball and the pitch was difficult,” said Rizwan, who was named player of the match. “When we finished the powerplay, the discussion was one of the guys to go deep.
“Luckily the half-century came in the semi-final. Our start to the tournament wasn’t good, but the guys have worked hard and we kept believing.”
New Zealand, who topped Group 1, were aiming to make the final for the second consecutive time, but their hunt for a maiden T20 title again fell short.
“Credit to Pakistan, they were too good today,” said captain Kane Williamson, who saw his side shell a series of catchable chances in a sloppy fielding display. “We were put under pressure early. Pakistan bowled very well. We were able to wrestle back momentum with an unbelievable knock from [Daryl] Mitchell.
“At the halfway stage we felt we had something to defend there [but] Pakistan were outstanding with the bat and they ran that down with ease. We certainly wanted to make them work harder for those runs. It’s a tough pill to swallow. I think if we want to be honest, we wanted to be more disciplined with our areas. Like I said, Pakistan deserved to win.”
Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2022