Any way you look at it this should have been an upset, and yet, somehow, it wasn’t. New Zealand are ranked 3rd compared to Pakistan’s sixth. New Zealand were second on the points table while Pakistan were down in seventh. New Zealand were unbeaten through six completed matches while Pakistan were two wins and three losses through five. And yet this was a match I at least was able to predict and it was never close. From the moment that Mohammad Amir’s first ball smashed through Martin Guptill’s defences it always looked like Pakistan would win.
While Neesham and de Grandhomme at least made sure that the match went the distance, it never ever looked close. I am confused as to why Babar Azam got the man of the match award for his century as it was the bowling that won Pakistan the match not the batting, but hey it was the only century of the match. Sometimes man of the match awards are a bit random and deeds performed earlier in the match are forgotten. Oh and for Pakistan the dream is still alive while for New Zealand they are still technically a chance of missing out on the semi-finals.
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Five Things We Learned:
(1) Dreams are real
While a lot of attention has been placed on Bangladesh’s chances of making the semi-finals, we seem to have ignored, somehow, that Pakistan have been on track since they lost the first match to West Indies, and have never fallen off that path. Not only are they on track, but each win has been identical to the wins in 1992 when they were champions, and there have been a whole lot of other coincidences as well. If Bangladesh beat India, it will be a different situation, but these two teams have to face each other in the final match, and, potentially, whoever wins is the semi-finalist – at least, so long as England lose to both India and New Zealand, which is far from a guarantee.
(2) Babar Azam some random statistic that sounds more important than it is
The match was won by Mohammad Amir’s first ball, reinforced by Shaheen Shah Afridi’s wickets. That was when the hard work was done. And yet the man of the match award went randomly to Babar Azam. I don’t know. He apparently was the second fastest to 3,000 ODI runs and the 5th player under the age of 23 years and 231 days to score runs in World Cups. Yeah, meaningless statistics eat your heart out. What I like about Babar is that he has the same name as my favourite elephant = Babar.
(3) Kane Williamson can fail
I predicted this and I was right! Sort of. He still got 41 runs in a difficult stage of the game and helped New Zealand to rebuild after they may have otherwise been all out for somewhere around 150, but it was still a lot worse than his other efforts in this World Cup – and his second dismissal. But he was nowhere near man of the match level. And did I say that I picked it? I’m happy when specific predictions like this work out.
(4) Pakistan’s dream is stronger than Bangladesh or Sri Lanka’s
They only have to beat Afghanistan and Bangladesh now, which is a lot easier than Bangladesh having to beat India and Pakistan. The problem is that, even if Bangladesh lose to India, if they beat Pakistan then they might still qualify – so long as England lose to both India and New Zealand. The bigger problem for Bangladesh’s chances is that, with New Zealand now having lost a match, England will probably beat them. It’s so complex but the 1992 dream is very real. Pakistan are in a better situation in 2019 than they were in 1992. Just so long as they don’t take it too casually, they should get there – well, so long as England lose.
(5) Shaheen Shah Afridi is incredible
While Mohammad Amir seemed to rest on that magnificent first ball, Shaheen Shah Afridi picked up where Amir left off, coming in first change to rip out New Zealand’s hopes and dreams in a spell that arguably should have been the man of the match award winning effort. It wasn’t just a statistic of 3/22 either – it was some magnificent, irresistible bowling to New Zealand’s top order. Man of the match for me, for sure.