Babar Azam scores match-winning century against NZ

Birmingham: Babar Azam says Pakistan have the belief they can win their remaining games to complete a dramatic turnaround and reach the World Cup semi-finals following victory against a strong New Zealand side on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old hit a match-winning unbeaten 101 to anchor Pakistan’s reply to New Zealand’s score of 237 for six at Edgbaston. Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed hit the winning runs in the final over as they finished on 241-4 to win by six wickets.

Pakistan had a disastrous start to their World Cup campaign, losing three of their first five matches with a single victory, against England, and a no-result. But Sunday’s win over South Africa at Lord’s and Wednesday’s victory in Birmingham have revived their hopes of pulling off a sensational comeback. Their next game is on Saturday against Afghanistan, who have lost all seven of their matches at the tournament in England and Wales and they finish their group fixtures against Bangladesh, who are level with Pakistan on seven points.

Sri Lanka are also in the hunt, one point behind but with a game in hand, meaning 1992 winners Pakistan must still rely on other results going in their favour to qualify from the 10-team group phase.

“Belief has been the key,” said Babar, who reached his 10th one-day international hundred off 124 balls with 11 fours. ‘We have the belief that we will win our next two games and then look ahead.’

Babar, 24, said even when the team were struggling earlier in the tournament, they were confident they could turn their fortunes around. “We were not winning matches but we talked to each other and had the belief that we could do it and now our focus is on the next game,” he said.

Defending champions Australia are the only team to have qualified for the semi-finals so far while New Zealand, India and England currently occupy the other top-four slots. Babar said his role had been to bat until the end of the innings.

“I was given a role to bat until the end and others bat around me and that worked well as (Mohammad) Hafeez and then Haris (Sohail) batted well to establish partnerships,” said Babar. He said his target is to become the best batsman in the world. “I can say that this is one of my best knocks because the aim is to be the best batsman in the world,” said Babar, who is already the top-rated batsman in the world in Twenty20 cricket.

Meanwhile, New Zealand all-rounder Jimmy Neesham is confident that New Zealand’s defeat against Pakistan in Birmingham on Wednesday will not derail their World Cup bid. Neesham led New Zealand’s fightback with a career-best undefeated 97 to lift them from a precarious 83-5 to 237-6 in their 50 overs at Edgbaston but they went down to their first defeat of the tournament. Victory would have seen Kane Williamson’s team become the second team to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals after defending champions Australia.

Despite the setback New Zealand, who have never won the World Cup, are still well-placed, second in the 10-team table on 11 points from seven games. “I think you’d be pretty naive to expect to go through the whole tournament unbeaten,” said the 28-year-old Neesham. “There are too many quality teams going around to expect to win every game. We prepared for a tournament where we’d probably lose one or two games, but for us it’s all about making it to the semi-finals, and you’re only two good games away from lifting the trophy. So for us nothing changes. We’ll prepare for the next game the same way we’ve prepared for the last six,” said Neesham, whose team next play Australia at Lord’s on Saturday, with their final game against hosts England on 3 July .

WC 100s by Pakistan middle order batsman
102*Imran Khan v SL Leeds 1983
103*Zaheer Abbas v NZ Nottingham 1983
103 Javed Miandad v SL Sind 1987
100 Saleem Malik v SL Faisalabad 1987
100*BABAR AZAM v NZ Birmingham 2019


NT Bureau