World Cup 2019: Neesham takes New Zealand to 237 after Afridi strikes

After Shaheen Afridi's strikes, James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme struck a partnership to take New Zealand to a competitive total of 237.

Shaheen Afridi finished with impressive figures of 3 for 28.   -  Reuters Photo

Shaheen Shah Afridi was born eight years after Pakistan won its first and the only World Cup title in 1992. Since the turn of the century, however, Pakistan cricket has struggled for consistency and success.

The youngster, not burdened by the failures of the recent past, tore into the New Zealand top-order, scalping three wickets to make the Kiwis perilously poised at 83 for five.

But a spirited partnership between James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme allowed New Zealand to escape from the calamity and post a challenging target of 237 for the often-unreliable Pakistan batting line-up.

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 Martin Guptill for five. Then, Afridi took over, bowling with verve, picking 3-9 in his first six overs.

While New Zealand captain Kane Williamson looked firm at one end, Afridi sent back Colin Munro and Ross Taylor – Sarfaraz Khan grabbing a stunning catch behind the stumps – inside the first nine overs.

Williamson built a 37-run partnership with Neesham, but the captain was dismissed for 41 by Shadab Khan.

With its back to the wall, 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 to deliver a knockout punch on South Africa and he continued his love affair with another commanding effort as he and Neesham bludgeoned the opposition bowling to post 85-runs in the final 10 overs. Neesham remained unbeaten on 97 even as Grandhomme ran himself out, taking a risk too many.