World Cup 2019: Babar, Shaheen end New Zealand's unbeaten run

Shaheen Afridi set the tone for Pakistan with a three-for before Babar Azam's maiden World Cup hundred helped seal the chase of 238 to win by six wickets against New Zealand.

Babar Azam exults after reaching his maiden World Cup hundred, which leg Pakistan to a crucial win over New Zealand at Edgbaston.   -  AP

Babar Azam’s unbeaten century helped Pakistan get the better of New Zealand by six wickets and stay on course for a World Cup semifinal berth.Chasing a challenging 237 on a tricky Edgbaston wicket on Wednesday, Pakistan rode on Azam’s classy 101 and Haris Sohail’s 68 to cross the line with five balls to spare.

Chasing a par score on a dry Edgbaston pitch, Pakistan batsmen were resilient. Azam put together two partnerships — 66 with Mohammad Hafeez and 126 with Sohail — to form the bedrock for the win that ended New Zealand's unbeaten run in the tournament.

In its last outing against South Africa at Lord’s last Sunday, both Azam and Sohail had played key roles in the side’s turnaround win, and it was no different at Edgbaston.

As it happened

If the two top batsmen sealed Pakistan’s win, it was young pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi who laid the foundation with the ball earlier in the day.

Born eight years after Pakistan won its first and the only World Cup title in 1992, Afridi tore into the New Zealand top-order, scalping three wickets to leave the Kiwis 83 for five.

But a spirited partnership between James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme allowed New Zealand post a challenging total. Neesham remained unbeaten on 97 even as Grandhomme ran himself out, taking a risk too many. After the rescue act, the duo bludgeoned the opposition bowling. New Zealand amassed 85 runs in the final 10 overs.

With a need to win all its remaining three matches to make it to the semifinals, Pakistan unleashed Afridi’s raw pace and sharp swing to unsettle the Kiwi top order.

The seasoned Mohammad Amir provided the early breakthrough, cleaning up Martin Guptill for five. Then, Afridi took over, bowling with verve, picking 3 for 9 in his first six overs.

While New Zealand captain Kane Williamson looked firm at one end, Afridi sent Colin Munro and Ross Taylor packing – Sarfaraz Ahmed grabbing a stunning catch behind the stumps – inside the first nine overs. Williamson built a 37-run partnership with Neesham, but was dismissed for 41 by Shadab Khan.

Neesham and Grandhomme fought back, taking advantage of Pakistan’s reluctance to go for the kill in the middle overs. At the same venue, last week, Grandhomme had hit a quickfire 60 against South Africa to deliver a knockout punch.