Is there a sense of deja-vu to this? The last time Pakistan won a World Cup in Australia (1992, 50 overs), they were down in the dumps after the first few matches, including a loss to India. Then there was divine intervention in the form of rain in a game where they were all out for 74, a few results going in their favour and some outstanding individual performances towards the backend. By the end of it at MCG, Imran Khan had the cup held high over his head.
What’s more interesting is that New Zealand was their opponent in the semifinal then. An in-form, consistent, well-drilled New Zealand, pretty similar to the one that Babar Azam‘s boys will face on Wednesday.
If current form is the yardstick to judge who’s the favourite, it’s New Zealand. But for a blip against England, they have looked good throughout the tournament. Their 89-run hammering of the Aussies set the platform for the ouster of the formidable hosts. Around the quality of Kane Williamson, there are a number of utility players always ready to pounce on any opportunity coming their way.
Their pace attack has a formidable look with Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson having the ability to make life miserable for any opposition.
Add to that the poor run of form that the talismanic Babar has been in. The Pakistan skipper’s much-vaunted opening partnership with Mohammed Rizwan has just not taken off and the middle-order has been under tremendous pressure in virtually every game.
It’s true Pakistan played well in their last two league games against South Africa and Bangladesh, but their ride into the semifinals wouldn’t have been possible if the Dutch hadn’t pulled off the miracle of the World Cup against the Proteas on Sunday.
Now that they are here, it’s suddenly a different ball game. Sydney has a decent Pakistani population and there will be more flying down from all corners of Australia. The lights will be on, there’s no rain in the air, and most importantly, the SCG pitch has something in it for the spinners, which should bring experienced leggie Shadab Khan into the equation. It’s going to have a feel of home away from home for Pakistan, something that can prove crucial in a game like this.
Pakistan can also carry a slight psychological advantage going into this winner takes all affair. They recently won a T20 tri-series in New Zealand hammering the hosts in the final. They know what to expect from this New Zealand side. Williamson rightly pointed out that there couldn’t have been a more dangerous opponent than Pakistan.
The respect, though, is mutual. Pakistan team mentor Matthew Hayden said: “I even played against (Tim) Southee. That goes to show you how much experience that team has got… Ferguson has great pace, lots of experience in T20 cricket as well, so poses good threats. And they’ve got good off-pace bowling as well,” Hayden said.
The Aussie great is also mindful of New Zealand’s “ability to constantly punch above their weight”, something that makes every big side uncomfortable. But then, Pakistan, too, aren’t quite the whipping boys — they know a thing or two about winning from impossible situations.
New Zealand and Pakistan meet at the SCG with a spot in the Final up for grabs 💪Which team wins today?… https://t.co/XYXS5EXXPK
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) 1667957443000
We will know by Wednesday night whether Babar’s boys have that magic dust of flair in them which made Imran’s Indomitables the kings of the world 30 years ago.