Pakistan batsman Babar Azam's ton helped his side thrash New Zealand by six wickets at Edgbaston here on Wednesday in the ongoing ICC Men's Cricket World Cup.
As a result of this loss, New Zealand's unbeaten streak in the ongoing tournament came to an end and Pakistan was able to keep their hopes alive of reaching the knock-out stage.
Chasing a target of 238 runs, Pakistan lost its first wicket in the third over of their inning. Fakhar Zaman (9) was dismissed by Trent Boult. Fakhar looked to loft the ball over midwicket, but he just managed a leading edge, handing a simple catch to Martin Guptill.
Imam-ul-Haq (19) was also not able to stay at the crease for a long time, as he was sent back to the pavilion by Lockie Ferguson in the 11th over, reducing Pakistan to 44/2.
Mohammad Hafeez joined Babar Azam in the middle and the duo retrieved the innings for Pakistan. Both batsmen stitched together a partnership of 66 runs before Kane Williamson got hold of Hafeez (32) in the 25th over.
Harish Sohail then came out to bat and played some brilliant shots along with Azam. Both struck regular boundaries and kept the scoreboard running.
Both scored their respective half-centuries and put New Zealand under immense pressure as Pakistan needed only 23 runs from five overs.
Azam continued his sublime form and went on to smash his century. However, in the 49th over, Sohail (68) got run out. The skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed then took the field and along with Azam (101*) took his side over the line to secure a six-wicket victory.
Earlier, Jimmy Neesham's knock of 97 runs helped New Zealand to post a score of 237 runs for the loss of six wickets in the allotted fifty overs after choosing to bat first.
In a must-win match, Pakistan came out all guns blazing with the ball as they reduced New Zealand to 46/4 inside 13 overs. Martin Guptill (5), Colin Munro (12), Ross Taylor (3), and Tom Latham (1) all failed to leave a mark. Guptill was dismissed by Mohammad Amir whereas Shaheen Shah Afridi took the key wickets of Munro and Taylor.
Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson and Neesham stitched a 37-run stand, but as soon as they started to look comfortable at the crease, Shadab Khan got the prized wicket of Williamson (41) as he had him caught by the wicket-keeper Sarafaraz Ahmed in the 27th over, reducing New Zealand to 83/5.
Colin de Grandhomme joined Neesham in the middle and they mixed caution with aggression, retrieving the innings for New Zealand. Both the players curbed their attacking instinct and played according to the situation. Neesham and de Grandhomme stitched together a partnership of 132 runs, which saw both players bringing up their half-centuries.
De Grandhomme (64) was finally sent back to the pavilion via a run-out in the 48th over. He guided a slower short ball to the third man and he came back for a second that wasn't there and Sarfaraz knocked the bails in time to dismiss him.
Neesham, however, kept on playing in an aggressive tone in the final overs and he ensured the Kiwi side goes past the 230-run mark. Neesham remained unbeaten on 97 whereas Shaheen Shah Afridi scalped three wickets for Pakistan.
Pakistan will next take on Afghanistan on June 29 whereas New Zealand will face Australia on the same date.
Brief Scores: Pakistan 241/4 (Babar Azam 101*, Haris Sohail 68, Kane Williamson 1-39) defeat New Zealand 237/6 (Jimmy Neesham 97*, Colin de Grandhomme 64, Shaheen Shah Afridi 3-28) by six wickets.
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