New Zealand beat Pakistan by 22 runs here on Tuesday to qualify for the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 cricket tournament.
Electing to bat first, New Zealand rode on Martin Guptill’s 48-ball 80 to post 180 for five wickets before restricting Pakistan to 158 for five in their 20 overs.
The win saw New Zealand move to the top of the Group B table with three wins from as many matches while Pakistan’s chances of advancing further dimmed after two straight losses.
Left-hander Sharjeel Khan (47) gave Pakistan a strong start in their reply to reach 76/1 in seven overs.
Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson introduced Ish Sodhi to produce the match’s defining phase.
The leg-spinner removed the dangerous looking Shahid Afridi and conceded only 25 runs from his four overs. He also created enough pressure for Mitchell Santner to pick up two wickets and strangle Pakistan to a 22-run defeat.
Pakistan needed 52 in 24 balls with six wickets in hand. But Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik could hardly find the gaps, as Pakistan failed to hit a boundary in its last 31 balls and finished on 158 for five.
With its third consecutive win, New Zealand became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals.
Earlier, Martin Guptill led the way with some power-packed batting as New Zealand posted a challenging total of 180/5 in their World Twenty20 Group 2 match against Pakistan at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium here on Tuesday.
Guptill smashed 80 runs off 48 balls with 10 boundaries and three sixes. Ross Taylor, who remained on 36 off 23 deliveries and Corey Anderson (21) played useful knocks in the later stages of the innings.
Pacer Mohammad Sami (2/23) was the best performer among the Pakistan bowlers, although he did take some punishment from Guptill in his first spell. Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi (2/40) also bagged a couple of wickets.
This is New Zealand’s third match of the tournament. The Kiwis have made themselves near certain candidates for advancing to the semi-finals by winning both their previous matches, against hosts India and Australia. Another victory on Tuesday will see them through to the last-four stage as the top team in the group.
Electing to bat on winning the toss, New Zealand were off to a superb start with openers Guptill and Kane Williamson going great guns.
Guptill was the more aggressive of the two, handing out some rough treatment to the Pakistan bowlers while Williamson gave him steady support from the other end as the duo put together an opening partnership of 62 runs by the eighth over.
Irfan struck the first blow for Pakistan when he outfoxed Williamson with a slower one. The Kiwi right-hander mistimed his attempted drive as Shahid Afridi pulled off an easy catch at cover.
Incoming batsman Colin Munro did not last long as Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi struck in his very first over after coming on to bowl. Attempting a switch hit of a delivery which was pitched on the middle stump, the left-handed Munro hit the ball straight to Sharjeel Khan at sweeper cover.
But that did not affect the New Zealand run rate too much as Guptill and Corey Anderson continued to score at a brisk pace. The duo added 52 runs between them before Guptill tapped the ball onto his stumps while trying to dab an incoming delivery from Sami to third man.
Anderson also went back to the pavilion in the very next over as he mistimed a googly from Afridi. But Taylor ensured that the Kiwis finished their innings on a strong note.
New Zealand 180/5 in 20 overs (Martin Guptill 80, Ross Taylor 36 n.o.; Mohammad Sami 2-23, Shahid Afridi 2-40); Pakistan (Sharjeel Khan 47, Ahmed Shehzad 30, Mitchell Santner 2/29, Adam Milne 2/26)