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Pakistan's joy piles pressure on struggling hosts

 

Babar Azam
Babar Azam

By Phil Blanche

Pakistan kept their World Cup hopes alive to end New Zealand's unbeaten record with a six-wicket win at Edgbaston.

New Zealand knew victory would secure a fourth successive World Cup semi-final appearance, but the Black Caps were unable to defend their total of 237 for six against revitalised opposition.

Pakistan still had plenty of work to do at the halfway mark of their chase, being 110 for three on a used pitch that was providing significant assistance to spinner Mitchell Santner.

But Babar Azam's unbeaten 101 - the first World Cup century by a Pakistan player other than an opening batsman since 1987 - saw off New Zealand with five balls to spare.

Babar passed 3,000 one-day international runs in the process, during his 68th innings and only slower than South Africa's Hashim Amla in reaching that landmark.

His 127-ball innings, which contained 11 fours, underlined the 24-year-old's huge talent, but New Zealand wicketkeeper Tom Latham was left to reflect on a spilled catch off Santner when Babar had made 38.

It was to prove a decisive drop and the result was never in doubt after that, despite Santner's spin and the early hostility generated by the aggressive bowling of paceman Lockie Ferguson.

Their win will also raise anxiety levels in the England dressing room, with only one point now separating the two sides in the race for a top-four finish.

Furthermore, England have a tough run-in, completing their group fixtures against India and New Zealand.

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