Pakistan eye to return 1992 glory as they face New Zealand in semi-final

It is nothing less than a miracle that we are witnessing Pakistan stepping into the semi-finals of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. In fact, the elderly fans of the team would have gone through a deja vu when almost three decades ago Imran Khan’s ‘Cornered tigers’ pulled off a dream comeback aided by forces beyond human comprehension to qualify for the final four and then locking horns with New Zealand before the final. A perfect repeat telecast of the 1992 World Cup is what the nation will be craving today. 

But, what are the odds that a wobbly Pakistan – who barely advanced to the final four stage – can beat the Kiwis – who almost made it a mundane activity to become finalists of the recent ICC tournaments, both ODI and T20 – at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the first semi-final on Wednesday? (New Zealand were the runner ups of the 2015 and 2019 ODI World Cups, and  also the 2021 T20 World Cup)

Both teams have one strength in common, and that is their pace battery. With veterans like Trent Boult and Tim Southee and an express pacer Lockie Ferguson at their disposal, New Zealand have every box ticked to disrupt even the most potent batting lineups of the world. And If they could make the new ball talk, the under-pressure opening pair of Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam might find it hard to salvage themselves from a woeful batting slump in the current tournament.

Pakistan, on the other hand, will be rooting for Shaheen, who just got his rhythm back, to give them an early breakthrough before Naseem Shah and death-bowling specialist Haris Rauf could further coerce the strong-looking Kiwi batting line. Pakistan will try to resist any change in their bowling make-up as the addition of an extra fast bowler, Mohammad Wasim Jr, have paid them dividends in the last four matches.

Besides their pace factory, Pakistan got a highly reliable spin attack that features the likes of leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who has been the most impactful player for the Green Shirts be it with the bowl or even with the bat, the all-rounder has made his presence felt and played some crucial roles in his side’s triumph.

Which team will win today and qualify for T20 World Cup 2022 Final?

A brief glance at the stats of the SCG shows us that the teams batting first have an edge over their opponents as they won 10 out of 17 T20I matches while the average first innings score is 167. Pakistan bode far better than the average when they raised 185/9 against South Africa in their group match at the venue, thanks to the blistering knocks by Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed coupled with a superb cameo played by young Mohammad Haris in the powerplay.

The Green Shirts desperately need their batting mainstays, Babar and Rizwan, to click just at the right time and it couldn’t be a much better opportunity than this. So far their sluggish approach in the powerplay caused less good than evil for the team in the tournament. But a bet on energetic Haris to open for the team might break that stagnation at the top for Pakistan. Maybe or maybe not? We have to see how today’s game turns out.

HEAD TO HEAD (T20Is)

Matches 28, Pakistan 17, New Zealand 11

FORM GUIDE

Pakistan: W,W,W,L,L
New Zealand: W,L,W,W,L

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