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Wisden at CWC19

When Babar Azam came of age in style – Almanack

Babar Azam, Pakistan v New Zealand, 2019 WC
by Richard Whitehead 2 minute read

Having outplayed South Africa at Lord’s, Pakistan, aided by Babar Azam’s brilliant century handed New Zealand their first defeat of the 2019 World Cup and with it, extended the stunningly similar parallel run to their glorious 1992 campaign. Richard Whitehead explained how in the 2020 Wisden Almanack.

New Zealand v Pakistan
Match 33, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Edgbaston, Birmingham
June 24, 2019

In a frenzied atmosphere, Pakistan continued their rehabilitation and inflicted on New Zealand their first defeat. Amid the whistles-and-horns cacophony outside Edgbaston afterwards, the chatter was about the growing list of parallels with 1992, when Pakistan won their only World Cup – as if a sequence of results could be deciphered like the symbols on the tomb of an ancient king.

Now, as then, their first seven results read: defeat (by West Indies), victory, washout, defeat, defeat, victory, victory.

But this was a triumph for Pakistani pragmatism as well as passion: on a used pitch, they managed an awkward chase with such precision that the winning boundary came off the first ball of the final over. Babar Azam, basking in the adulation, made a brilliant unbeaten 101. He won a compelling battle with Boult, and shared a soothing fourth-wicket stand of 126 with Haris Sohail.

After a delayed start, the match burst into life like the opening scene of a Hollywood blockbuster, when Mohammad Amir’s first ball induced a drag-on by Guptill, prompting a volcanic eruption of noise. But it was Shaheen Shah Afridi who did most to undermine New Zealand, with the wickets of Munro, Taylor – athletically caught by Sarfaraz Ahmed – and Latham, at a cost of five runs in 20 balls.

Williamson failed to reach 50 for the first time in four innings but, from 83 for five, Neesham and de Grandhomme doggedly fought back, putting on 132, New Zealand’s first sixth-wicket century partnership in a World Cup. Ferguson was brisk and hostile but, on a surface which might have helped leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, Williamson had deployed his own part-time off-breaks. The result piled more pressure on England, who now led Pakistan by only a point.

First published in the 2020 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack

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