The parallels to 1992 are uncanny, for both teams, when New Zealand were unbeaten after their first 6 games but lost their last group match against Pakistan then lost to Pakistan again in the semi-finals, while Pakistan started with a loss to West Indies, a washout, 2 more losses, a win, and then a win against New Zealand. In other words, if Pakistan win this match, we may as well just hand them the trophy, and New Zealand can resign themselves to being a losing semi-finalist, perhaps to Pakistan even.
There is certainly a possibility for Pakistan to qualify for the semi-finals but it is more difficult this time as, not only do they have to win this match against New Zealand, but they have to win 2 more matches after it, against Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Easy matches, you’d think, but don’t forget that Afghanistan beat them in their warm-up match while Bangladesh could well be fighting with them for the final semi-final spot, with the winner to be in the semi-finals and the loser not. But they have to win this match first. Bangladesh have to beat India too, which is undoubtedly an even tougher prospect.
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Five Fearless Predictions:
(1) Kane Williamson will fail
He’s only been out once in 5 completed games and so it’d be easy to think he’ll succeed again but I don’t think so. Pakistan are good at targeting batsmen and executing whatever their plans might be. When you’ve got a team with one giant batsmen in the side, you may as well use him for target practice. With Mohammad Amir on fire, surely that will be the battle that decides the match.
(2) Mohammad Amir will thrive
He’s been ranging from very good to amazing all tournament long and is right up there with Shakib al Hasan, Jofra Archer and David Warner for player of the tournament but this is his chance to get ahead of the pack. His team needs him to thrive, and then to rally behind him.
(3) Pakistan will win
I know it’s hype and it’s a meme but there’s also motivation. We saw in England’s game against Australia and Bangladesh’s game against Afghanistan, and even in Pakistan’s last game against South Africa that sometimes games are won in the mind, not on the field, and Pakistan have a much bigger motivation to win than New Zealand, who have probably qualified for the semi-finals anyway. New Zealand also know what happens in World Cups when they are unbeaten just before the semi-finals so might want a loss to get them energised for the knockout stages.
(4) Matt Henry will shine
Pick a New Zealand fast bowler, any fast bowler. There’s been a lot of talk about Lochie Ferguson but Matt Henry is, in my mind, the better bowler, and I am picking him to do well here. Lochie Ferguson seems to work on a pattern of bowling badly mixed in with bowling well, to trap batsmen out, a technique that certainly works well in ODIs, but I prefer the more stable bowling of Matt Henry, especially against Pakistan.
(5) Sarafraz Ahmed will star
There’s been a lot of talk about captain fearless. Don’t forget that the 1992 World Cup winning captain, Imran Khan, is now Prime Minister of Pakistan. If Pakistan win this tournament, perhaps Sarafraz can be Prime Minister himself in what 27 years from now. You never know.