The summer arrived, then disappeared again as I was driving to Birmingham. I woke up to a drizzly, gloomy morning. Staying in Moseley I walked the 1.5 miles to Edgbaston. Let the frizzy hair commence!
The toss was delayed, but as I sat down in the members lounge with a cuppa the covers came off and the players came out to warm up to rapturous applause.
The Pakistan team formed their huddle to have an intense team talk from both Mickey Arthur and Sarfaraz. This was a must win match for the Green Team.
Kane Williamson won the toss and elected to bat. Hafeez again opened the bowling for Pakistan, he had a decent first over. Amir opening at the other end, had an incredible start! Martin Guptill played on and his stumps were demolished! Out for 5!! What a start for Amir! He’s a man who thrives on the big stage.
Shaheen Afridi came on to bowl, it seems he’s too tall (he is very tall), we had an 8 minute delay while they sorted the site screen out, utterly ridiculous!
Shaheen struck in his second over, Colin Monro flashed at the ball and was caught by Haris Sohail, he was out for 12 and New Zealand were 24 for 2 in the 7th over.
Ross Taylor looked very uncomfortable facing Shaheen, I joked to my neighbour, perhaps he can get out. And sure enough he edged a ball to Sarfaraz who took a brilliant catch low to his right! Taylor was out for 3 and New Zealand were 38 for 3 after 9 overs.
Things went from bad to worse for New Zealand, when Williamson took an ill judged single from Shaheen, it was clear Tom Latham was unhappy facing the young bowler and sure enough he edged a ball to Sarfaraz, OUT for 1 and New Zealand were 46 for 4 after 13.3 overs. Shaheen had 3 for 9 from 4.3 overs! Remarkable! He followed his wicket over up with a maiden! The lad looked unplayable!
There was muted applause for New Zealand’s 50 brought up in the 16th over. Hafeez did a good restricting job from the City while Shaheen took wickets from the Pavilion end.
Wahab replaced Hafeez, New Zealand were 68 for 4 after 21 overs. I had sight of a proper scoreboard at Edgbaston, hallelujah! Williamson had 37 from 55 and Neesham 14 from 32 balls. The NZ batsmen were certainly being challenged. They moved to 82 for 4 after 26 overs, it was almost like watching Day 1 of a test match!
Kane Williamson survived a run out review, but he didn’t survive the second ball from Shadab, he was out caught Sarfaraz for 41! New Zealand were in some trouble on 83 for 5 after 26.2 overs!
New Zealand were 94 for 5 after 30 overs and Neesham had survived a very tight run out call after a brilliant piece of fielding by Shadab, a direct hit, it was very close, but the decision went the way of the batsman.
An amazing thing happened in the 33rd over, a Six!! The first of the match, from De Grandhomme he and Neesham dug in for their team and got them to 144 for 5 after 38 overs, then 152 for 5 after 40. Neesham reached his 50 from 77 balls, an important innings for New Zealand.
in a strange series of happenings a potential catch was reviewed by the umpires, unable to use ultra edge, Sarfaraz basically wasted his review. It looked clear that no bat was involved.
The 100 partnership came up with a Four from an unusually loose ball from Amir. De Grandhomme reached his own 50 from 63 balls in the 45th over. New Zealand were 184 for 5 with 5 overs remaining.
Neesham reached his highest ODI score (76) with a Six from Amir’s bowling and New Zealand reaches their 200 with a Four in the same over. 203 for 5 after 46.3 overs, a great innings by the pair.
The partnership was broken by a run out, a quick return of the ball by Amir saw De Grandhomme out for 64, a great innings by the powerful batsman. New Zealand were 215 for 6 with 16 balls remaining.
Neesham finished on 97 from 112 balls, hitting a huge Six from the last ball of the innings. New Zealand finished on 237 for 6 having been 83 for 5. Some fight back!
Pakistan started their innings well, hitting 19 runs from the first 3 overs, but, batting against Trent Boult was never going to be a breeze and Fakhar skied a ball to be caught by Guptill on the final ball of the 3rd over, he was gone for 9.
Babar joined Imam, the pair just needed to bat sensibly, with less than 5 an over required. Pakistan were 43 for 1 after 10 overs.
A change of bowling saw Imam lose his wicket, a Lockie Ferguson ball was caught by Guptill, a big man he had to dive forwards to take a great catch. Imam was gone for 19 and Pakistan were 44 for 2.
We had a further delay for sight screen issues, at the city end a tarpaulin came free of some white railings, one of the umpires ended up over there helping to sort it out! Above the call of duty I’d say!
4 New Zealand fans who sung Colin De Grandhomme’s praises while he was batting sang his praises as we waited, he totally ignored them which was disappointing! Those NZ fans turned out to be 2 from NZ and 1 with an India shirt on with a Pakistan fan. They later instigated singing for Pakistan, how great is that!
Hafeez had looked very tentative but finally hit a Four, bringing Pakistan’s 50 up in the 13th over. He got hit on the head by a Ferguson ball, which really should’ve seen someone coming on to check him and his helmet, instead Babar did the checking.
In search of a wicket Williamson brought Santner on. As Hafeez was waiting to face a ball the screen showed the fact Babar had reached 3000 ODI runs. Strange timing of a great stat. That milestone was reached in this his 68th innings, only Amla has reached that point quicker.
Pakistan were 86 for 2 after 20 overs, with Babar on 34 from 40 and Hafeez 23 from 41. The 50 partnership came up in 73 Balls, the 100 for Pakistan after 22.5 overs.
Kane Williamson brought himself on to bowl, Babar took a single and Hafeez took one silly shot then another, on the second he was caught by Ferguson, out for 32. There seems to be something about part time bowlers and Hafeez! Pakistan were 110 for 3 after 24.5 overs.
Babar brought his 50 up in 65 balls, things were taking some time. While this New Zealand team don’t look very athletic they’re certainly athletic in the field, they saved many runs.
An appeal went up for a catch from the bowling of Santner, no bat on it though, a 2nd appeal followed, again to no avail. Santner was making that ball move some! Haris really struggled in the double appeal over.
Pakistan were 128 for 3 after 30 overs, they needed just under a run a ball, calm was needed. I was sat next to Zia, who was great company, his T Shirt was very apt! Their 150 came up in the 36th over.
With 84 needed from 84 balls this was a nail biter! At no stage did New Zealand look like they thought the game was lost. 10 from the 37th over took the noise levels up. 59 runs were needed from 11 overs, Babar was on 75 from 97 and Haris 39 from 48.
With 10 overs remaining Pakistan required 55. Their 200 came up after 41.5 overs. Haris brought his own 50 up in the 45th over, from 63 balls.
Babar reached 99 then faced 4 nerve wracking balls from Boult. The equation was 13 from 18
Babar reached his 100 from 124 balls, a match winning innings at last! His century was wildly celebrated, a delightful batsman to watch I was thrilled for him.
The drama wasn’t over in this game, Haris went for a speculative run (see the T-Shirt above) and was run out by Guptill, he certainly made up for his performance with the bat with his fielding. Haris had made 69 from 76 balls, a key innings.
Pakistan needed just 2 runs from 9 balls as captain Sarfaraz came to the crease, it took 4 balls to get there, with Sarfaraz finishing things off with a Four. New Zealand competed until the very end, but lost their unbeaten record, Pakistan live to fight another day. They have Afghanistan and Bangladesh to come.
This was my 10th World Cup match and the best by far, a low scoring thriller, thoroughly enjoyable!