ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Pakistan win piles more pressure on England
New Zealand's unbeaten run comes to an end as Pakistan move closer to a semi-final spot
27 June 2019, 11:00 AM AEST
Babar Azam made an unbeaten century as Pakistan kept their World Cup hopes alive to end New Zealand's unbeaten record with a six-wicket win at Edgbaston.
New Zealand knew victory would secure a fourth successive World Cup semi-final appearance, but the Black Caps were unable to defend their total of 6-237 against a revitalised opposition and now must beat either Australia or England in the run home to be certain of a top-four finish.
Pakistan’s win will also raise anxiety levels in the England dressing room, with only one point now separating the two sides in the race for the knockout stage.
England (eight points), Pakistan (seven points) and Bangladesh (seven points) all have two matches still to play, while Sri Lanka (six points) have three matches to come, with those four sides seemingly battling it for just one semi-final spot.
Pakistan will face Afghanistan and then Bangladesh in what could be a winner-takes-all clash on the run home, while England will face unbeaten India and then the Kiwis. Bangladesh have games against India and Pakistan to come while the Sri Lankans will take on South Africa, the West Indies and India.
Pakistan still had plenty of work to do at the halfway mark of their chase, being 3-110 on a used pitch that was providing significant assistance to spinner Mitchell Santner.
But Azam's 101 not out - the first World Cup century by a Pakistan player other than an opening batsman since 1987 - saw off New Zealand with five balls to spare.
Babar passed 3000 one-day international runs in the process.
His 127-ball innings, which contained 11 fours, underlined the 24-year-old's huge talent, but New Zealand wicketkeeper Tom Latham was left to reflect on a spilled catch off Santner when Babar had made 38.
It was to prove a decisive drop and the result was never in doubt after that, despite Santner's spin and the early hostility generated by paceman Lockie Ferguson.
"Whenever we are in a corner we play our best, it was a great team effort," said winning captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.
"All the bowlers bowled well and there was some of the finest batting I have ever seen. The target of 240 was not an easy and we just wanted to play the 50 overs. Babar played one of the best innings I have ever seen. They handled the pressure so well."
The fourth-wicket partnership between Babar and Haris Sohail, (68) who was run out in the penultimate over, was played out in front of ecstatic Pakistan supporters, who delighted in taking over Edgbaston for the day.
It was a gritty all-round team performance from Pakistan, who flew out of the blocks with Shaheen Afridi questioning New Zealand's decision to bat in overcast conditions by taking three wickets.
Mohammad Amir had first-ball success as Martin Guptill dragged on, but it was Shaheen who shone to leave New Zealand in real difficulty at 4-46.
The out-of-form Colin Munro (12) drove to slip, Ross Taylor (3) was brilliantly caught by gloveman Sarfaraz Ahmed diving to his right, and Latham (1) also edged behind.
Afridi had figures of 7-3-11-3 from his first spell and finished with 3-28 - the most economical spell by a Pakistan bowler at the last five World Cups.
Kane Williamson, so often New Zealand's saviour, dug in, but the Black Caps skipper fell for 41 as leg-spinner Shadab Khan found prodigious turn to give Sarfaraz a third catch.
Jimmy Neesham and Colin De Grandhomme repaired the early damage with a sixth-wicket partnership of 132 as New Zealand showed their renowned battling qualities.
De Grandhomme was eventually run out for 64 and Neesham compiled an ODI best of 97 not out to set Pakistan what looked like a challenging target.
"The fight we showed in the back end was outstanding and we were in a competitive position," said Williamson. "We were right in it, but their batsmen played beautifully well and took the game away from us.
"There are so many games in the round robin you can't win them all."