Pakistan are in a do-or-die situation at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 as they head into their match against New Zealand. The match will be played at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday. Even by the standards of Pakistan’s unpredictable nature, their topsy-turvy ride in the tournament has raised a lot of eyebrows. Despite having some of the best batters and bowlers at their disposal, the Men in Green have struggled to keep themselves as one of the favourites and are now facing an intricate situation.
Pakistan must win both their remaining matches – against New Zealand and England – to stand a chance of reaching the semi-finals. Currently, they have three wins in seven matches and are lurking at the halfway point of the table. If they are to surpass New Zealand or Australia in the points table, they also must register big wins in these matches.
In their previous match, Pakistan outclassed Bangladesh and won by seven wickets at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Bangladesh were bowled out for 204 runs courtesy of spectacular spells by Shaheen Afridi (3/22) and Mohammad Wasim Jr (3/31). Fakhar Zaman and Abdullah Shafique scored half-centuries in the run chase as Pakistan got to the target in 32.3 overs.
Their opponents, meanwhile, have one foot in the semi-final but are hanging by a thread after three consecutive defeats. New Zealand will still be in a position of advantage if they lose to Pakistan due to their superior net run rate, but they wouldn’t want to risk it. With four wins in seven matches, the Kiwis are in the top four for now, but anything could happen as the tournament progresses.
Here’s how Pakistan might line up for this clash:
Openers: Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman
Fakhar Zaman returned to the playing XI against Bangladesh and made his presence felt instantly. The left-handed batter smashed 81 off 74 balls, which included three fours and seven sixes. His knock earned him the Player of the Match award and will be beaming with confidence ahead of this crucial fixture.
Abdullah Shafique has been one of Pakistan’s best players in this tournament. The young batter has scored one century and three half-centuries, compiling 332 runs in six knocks. He averages 55.33 and bats at a strike-rate of 95.13.
Middle order: Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel
Babar Azam’s tournament has not taken off yet and he has been under severe criticism because of it. He scored 216 runs in seven innings at an average just above 30, which is well below his standard. Saud Shakeel, though, has chipped in with some big contributions, taking his run tally to 212 runs at a strike-rate of 101.43.
Mohammad Rizwan has been Pakistan’s stand-out batter at the World Cup. He scored 359 runs at an average of 71.80 and a strike-rate of 98.89, which includes a century against Sri Lanka.
All-rounders: Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan
Despite not having the best of tournaments, Pakistan might revert to the experience of Shadab Khan in the line-up. The leg-spinner only picked up two wickets in five matches but scored 117 runs with the bat at a strike-rate of 103.53.
Iftikhar Ahmed too has had similar outings so far, contributing a little with the ball and adding some crucial runs in the middle order. He has only two wickets to his credit but scored 139 runs at a strike-rate of 117.79.
Bowlers: Shaheen Afridi, Usama Mir, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Haris Rauf
Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf was the pivotal players among their bowlers. Afridi is one of the best bowlers in this tournament with 16 wickets to his credit in seven matches, while Haris Rauf, despite having a few forgettable outings, has stepped up to pick up 12 wickets. They are Pakistan’s only bowlers with 10+ wickets in the tournament.
Usama Mir might continue as the spinning option. He picked up four wickets in four matches and despite not being very commendable in the field, Mir has troubled batters. Mohammad Wasim Jr too will continue in the XI, who picked up five wickets in two matches.
Pakistan’s predicted playing XI:
Babar Azam (c)
Mohammad Rizwan (wk)
Mohammad Wasim Jr
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