It must win a game for Pakistan to stay alive in the tournament. Surely not many expected them to cruise home. Not after their openers threw it away and exposed the middle order inside 15 overs. On a pitch that was not easy to bat. Babar Azam walked in and displayed nerves of steel to grind it out and stay till the target is achieved.
There were plenty of ooh-and-aah moments during the chase, but Babar’s focus never drifted away and he along with the in-form Haris Sohail engineered a 100-plus partnership to seal the deal in front of a packed Edgbaston crowd.
New Zealand wasn’t as sharp with the ball and unfortunately for them, their worst bowling performance coincided with Pakistan’s best batting effort in this World Cup.
All in all, this game will be remembered for the terrific performances of the young duo Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi who showed plenty of character in a must-win game for their nation. And that’s, exactly, how you churn superstars.
Sarfaraz Ahmed | Pakistan Captain:
Says that the crowd always support them and thanks to them. Adds that fielding is a very important part and they have worked hard on it. Adds that whenever they are pushed in a corner, they perform the best. States that it’s a complete team effort and praises his bowlers and then the partnership between Haris Sohail and Babar Azam. Terms the batting of Babar Azam as the best he has ever seen and lauds him for the way he handled the pressure. Mentions that it was a tricky target but he was confident of chasing it if they bat out the 50 overs. In comparison with the 1992 WC, Sarfaraz replies that they are not thinking much about it and taking one game at a time. Hopes to keep doing best.
Kane Williamson | New Zealand Captain:
Says that in the last 34 games the pitch has offered something for the bowlers and credits Pakistan for outplaying them on a tough surface. Praise the opposition for bowling in the right areas and nipping a number of guys off but also credits Neesham and de Grandhomme to bring the Kiwis back into the game. Admits that his own team had a chance with two early wickets but then Pakistan’s middle order fought hard. Agrees that 250 might have been a difficult score on this track. On taking Santner off when Sohail came on to bat, Williamson says that was trying to save him for the end. Agrees that this loss is a blip and wants to forget this quickly and move on to the next match against a different opposition on a different pitch and hopes to perform better than today.
BABAR AZAM | MAN OF THE MATCH:
Says that this is indeed his best inning, which was required on a wicket which was slow and the track was turning a lot. Stresses that it was difficult to bat on and hence wanted to bat 50 overs. On being asked who was more of a threat – spinner (Santner) or seamer, Babar says that the initial plan was to see off the fast bowlers but on seeing the ball turn, Azam says that he and Hafeez thought of playing Santner out, trying to get 3-4 runs an over. Thanks to the fans for turning out in numbers, even in Birmingham and adds that they always support Pakistan in England.