New Zealand v Pakistan: Sarfraz's side out to keep semi-final chances alive

By Sports Desk June 25, 2019

Pakistan must inflict New Zealand's first defeat at this year's Cricket World Cup on Wednesday if they are to keep their slim hopes of progression alive.

Sunday's victory over South Africa kept Pakistan in with a chance of making the semi-finals of the tournament, though they will realistically have to win their final three matches to do so.

In-form New Zealand are first up at Edgbaston before they take on Afghanistan in Leeds on Saturday and then Bangladesh at Lord's on July 5.

While Pakistan's hopes are hanging by a thread, the Black Caps have been in fine form and are on the brink of securing a top-four finish.

They have posted five victories so far, while they also picked up a point when their much-anticipated contest with India was washed out at Trent Bridge.

Captain Kane Williamson has been sensational with the bat, having followed up his 106 not out against South Africa with a sublime 148 - his highest ODI score to date - in a thrilling five-run victory over West Indies last time out.

If Pakistan are to better New Zealand, they will have to improve in the field. Both captain Sarfraz Ahmed and coach Mickey Arthur criticised the side's efforts against South Africa, despite the final result.

TOURNAMENT SO FAR

New Zealand were run close by West Indies on Saturday, with Carlos Brathwaite's last-over dismissal clinching victory.

They were also involved in tense finishes against Bangladesh and South Africa at The Oval and Edgbaston respectively, though had few problems dealing with Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Pakistan, meanwhile, are mounting a recovery mission following their difficult start to the tournament.

Sarfraz's side followed up their opening defeat to West Indies by upsetting hosts England, but successive defeats to Australia and India left them needing two points against South Africa to keep themselves in with chance.

WHAT THEY SAID

Mitchell Santner on Kane Williamson's performances: "He's coming off two centuries, and the one against South Africa was pretty special. It didn't look as fluid, his innings, but that's what made it so good. He was there at the end when we needed him. Obviously it was his highest score in ODI cricket."

Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood on facing New Zealand: They're definitely a very strong side. They won all of their games, so we know they're a strong side. If we can get our disciplines right, like we did last game - batting, bowling, and fielding - our ground fielding was really good, but unfortunately we dropped a lot of catches - we can beat any side."

OPTA FACTS

- Pakistan picked up a six-wicket win in their last ODI clash with New Zealand in November, ending a 12-game losing streak against the Black Caps.

- This will be the ninth World Cup meeting between New Zealand and Pakistan, who won six in a row between 1983 and 1999.

- New Zealand have won four of their seven completed ODI fixtures at Edgbaston, including a four-wicket victory over South Africa in this tournament.

- Ross Taylor is set to eclipse Nathan Astle (223) as the fifth-most capped player for New Zealand in ODI history.

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