Babar relieved to guide Pakistan to victory over New Zealand
The 24-year-old batsman is the second fastest to reach 3,000 ODI runs.
Pakistan hero Babar Azam admitted that not winning a one-day international for his country had been preying on his mind.
Babar masterminded a crucial six-wicket World Cup win over New Zealand at Edgbaston with his 10th ODI hundred, his unbeaten 101 seeing Pakistan home with five balls to spare.
The win moves Pakistan to within one point of fourth-placed England in the race for a semi-final spot and piles the pressure on Eoin Morgan’s men ahead of their Edgbaston clash against India on Sunday.
Pakistan were 110 for three in pursuit of their victory target of 238 but Babar, who has been criticised in the past for failing to get his side across the line, and Haris Sohail shared a decisive fourth-wicket partnership of 126 in 24 overs.
“It was in my mind that I’m not finishing these matches,” said Babar, 24, who during his 68th ODI innings became the second-fastest player to reach 3,000 runs – with only South Africa’s Hashim Amla getting there quicker.
“When me and Haris were batting we had a plan to carry on the innings, and we have done that. It was a difficult pitch to bat on as it was spinning a lot.
“(Mohammad) Hafeez and I had a plan before to see off the spinners’ overs and attack the fast bowlers.”
Pakistan had collected only three points from their opening five games, with the only win in that sequence coming against England.
But back-to-back wins over South Africa and New Zealand have provided Pakistan with momentum ahead of closing games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Curiously, their run of results and record after seven games is identical to the Pakistan side that Imran Khan led to World Cup glory in 1992.
I think you'd be pretty naive to expect to go through the whole tournament unbeaten Jimmy Neesham
“Everybody contributed a lot and we are very focused on this,” said Babar.
“We are confident of taking it match by match, and hopefully we will qualify.”
New Zealand need to win one of their final two games to make a fourth successive World Cup semi-final appearance.
Jimmy Neesham made a career-best 97 not out in New Zealand’s 237 for six and said confidence would not be dented by a first defeat in the competition.
“I think you’d be pretty naive to expect to go through the whole tournament unbeaten,” Neesham said.
“There’s too many quality teams going around to expect to win every game. We prepared for a tournament where we’d probably lose one or two games.
“But for us, it’s all about making it to the semi-finals, and you’re only two good games away from lifting the trophy.”
New Zealand’s next outing is against great rivals Australia at Lord’s on Saturday before a Durham finale with England.
Neesham added: “For us, nothing changes. The mood in the dressing room is good and we’ll prepare for the next game the same way we’ve prepared for the last six.
“We’re not the type of team that takes losses really hard. We’ll talk about how that game went, and then we’ll pretty much park it and hit our scouting pretty fresh.”