Pakistan 200 for 1 (Zaman 126*, Babar 66*, Southee 1-27) beat New Zealand 401 for 6 Ravindra 105, Williamson 95, Wasim 3-60) by 21 runs on DLS
Pakistan’s decision to field first after winning the toss raised eyebrows on a flat wicket, suggesting they had as much of an eye on improving their net run rate as they did putting points on the board. But as soon as New Zealand’s innings started, both prospects began to look like distant improbabilities. Devon Conway and Ravindra had started brightly, and Pakistan, who had somewhat curiously gone without either of their two legspinners or Mohammad Nawaz, found themselves turning to Iftikhar Ahmed’s spin in the sixth over.
They had long brought up their half-centuries, and were speeding towards three figures, turbocharged by a Hasan Ali over that saw 18 come off it as both approached the 90s. But there was to be no slowdown from either; with New Zealand hovering around 240 for 1, there was little need to stall momentum in pursuit of a milestone. If anything Williamson’s risk-taking increased to reckless levels; he nearly ran himself out three times while within touch of his century. Ravindra, meanwhile, smeared Wasim through the onside to get to 99, before a single brought up his third World Cup hundred in the city of his parents’ birth.
Williamson fell looking to bring his own hundred up with a straight six as he holed out to long-off, while Ravindra scooped one up to the midwicket boundary shortly after. But if Pakistan thought two new batters would stem the bleeding, Daryl Mitchell and Mark Chapman soon disabused them of that notion. The pair, along with Glenn Phillips and Mitchell Santner, put on cameos to see to it that New Zealand put on 140 runs in the 14.1 overs since Ravindra fell, breaching the 400 barrier against a battered, broken Pakistan fielding unit.
Pakistan needed everything to go their way to have a snowball’s chance in hell, and that’s certainly not how it started. It was the irrepressible Williamson who drew first blood with one of the catches of the tournament, a sensational diving grab running backwards that put paid to Abdullah Shafique.
But it was Fakhar who Pakistan needed in a situation like this, and his onslaught against Trent Boult made his intentions clear. Two fours and a six in his third over set the tone, with the 17 he conceded was Boult’s most expensive World Cup over. It was followed up by another 16 in his next as Babar also joined the party.
However, it was the Fakhar show. Soon, Tim Southee was also taken on, as was Santner as Pakistan posted 75 by the time the first powerplay ended. Fakhar soon brought up his half-century with a late cut off Ish Sodhi off 39 balls, but he was only getting warmed up.
A pair of sixes off Glenn Phillips meant Williamson, too, was struggling to get a handle on Fakhar, who was in that zone where he looked like every ball would disappear for six. Before you looked up, you saw he’d smacked Santner for his ninth six of the innings and was suddenly one ball away from three figures, bringing up a phenomenal 62-ball hundred soon after.
When the rains arrived, Pakistan were ten runs ahead on the DLS, but it was to be a relatively brief interruption. When they got back on, though, they rubberstamped their dominance as the chase dwindled to 342 off 41 overs; they had effectively reduced it to a T20 game. Williamson fatefully turned to Sodhi, who conceded 32 in the two overs he sent down, including two gigantic sixes off Fakhar that indicated the break had not sapped any of his momentum.
When steady rains began once more, Pakistan were much further ahead, 21 clear of where they needed to be. And on a wet evening, they would never get back on, Pakistan dashing away with the two points in a smash-and-grab for the ages. One whose lore may continue to be told and reinvented if a few results go a certain way in the coming week.
Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000