Pakistan win. Bowlers. Openers. Power plays. Middle. Mitchell’s semi. Used pitches.

Day 25 of the World Cup.

Pakistan win

I love the theory that Pakistan had it too easy last World Cup. Beat India early on, raced through the group, face saving six against Afghanistan, and then into the semi-final against an Australian team still trying to work out how things worked. And when they were basically in the final, and a fielder was slightly in the wrong position, and Pakistan collapsed in a glorious chaotic mess.

This tournament they started in that mess. Losing a near unlosable game, and then backing it up by losing another near unlosable game. When their World Cup was basically over, they batted really oddly against the Netherlands, before beating South Africa to give themselves a theoretical chance of staying alive.

But Pakistan cricket was in the hands of the Dutch team, who had not made a run over two World Cups.

It wasn’t Pakistan that caught fire and changed things, or even had rain assistance like the last time they won a World Cup in Australia. They had to rely on the Dutch middle order to not suck for the ninth time in a row, and it happened.

Oh, and I just want to talk about something really odd, that I could write, but works better in tweet form.

Pakistan’s chaos is now an airborne virus that can affect other teams as well.

But this wasn’t chaos cricket, they bossed the powerplay, bowled well into the used conditions of the ground, even finding reverse, which we haven’t seen much of this tournament. They showed energy in the field, that was backed up with skill. And they also remembered to bring their opening batters to this game.

The chaos was external, this was a professional win by a team that has won a lot of T20 matches. And now has one more in order to fulfil what they have been building for a long way.

New Zealand were barely even a narrative arc today in the soap opera that is Pakistan T20 cricket. Pakistan in a World Cup final is a thing of beauty, because every single weird thing you can dream up, is right now, a solid possibility.

Pakistan, Zindabad.

Pakistan bowling

If there was one thing that Pakistan felt they could count on coming into this match it was their bowling. Their batters might have disappointed but their bowlers have not.

They have been blessed with a fearsome foursome of fast bowlers and with 10 wickets from Shadab Khan thrown in for good measure.

Shaheen Shah Afridi has slightly felt his way into the tournament after his recent injury. Today though he was fantastic from ball one, well maybe ball two.

His match up with Finn Allen always looked like it was going to be a fascinating one. A batsman who goes hard from the start with a weakness against the swinging ball versus a bowler who swings it and practically specialises in striking in the first over. As we saw in the first three balls.

Afridi getting Allen early was key, taking the sting out of New Zealand’s batting before it could get going. Pakistan’s great strength with their bowling is its depth. When Naseem Shah’s first over proved a little more expensive than they’d like – Conway picking up two fours – they simply turned to Haris Rauf.

His first over went for just four. Pakistan’s ability to switch up between high quality options allowed them to keep early pressure on New Zealand. The powerplay going for just 38.

Pakistan’s fast bowlers have been so effective coming into this game that they have only got 7 overs out of their second spinner Mohammad Nawaz – and one of those was medium pace.

Today though he showed his utility to Pakistan and that their bowling attack is perhaps even more well rounded than some people thought. His removal of the in form Glenn Phillips in the eighth over was a real death blow for New Zealand’s chances.

As a bowling performance it couldn’t have been more different from New Zealand’s – whose bowling attack had been equally praised coming into this match.

Trent Boult’s opening two overs went for 22, Tim Southee’s 17, and Lockie Ferguson’s 16 – Pakistan took 55 from the powerplay.

Those three would finish with economy rates of 8.3, 7.6 and 9.3. Ultimately only their spinners could manage to keep any sort of a lid on things. It underlined just how good Pakistan had been with the ball.

Babar And Rizwan

I need to be honest, I don’t really get the double anchor opening batting idea. It seems like a waste of perfectly good powerplay restrictions to me. But, it’s hard to argue that Rizwan and Babar haven’t been good at it.

By that I mean they are already the greatest opening partnership in terms of runs in T20I, despite only getting together in 2021. That is obscene and wrong to begin with. There are a lot of slow scoring players out there not being able to make this many runs.

But they had been horrendous in this tournament, after four games they had basically the same record as Namibia, so worst of all. I mean, this was stinky. But if you look at the entire last two world cups over all, things are looking a lot better.

In 12 games they have crossed 30 half the innings, including their past two matches.But more impressively three of those have been hundred stands as well. It’s another reason I am looking at these things in total. Because it is easy to say Pakistan openers have been unimpressive, but we’re really talking about a four game stretch.

And so now when you look at it, Pakistan are number three in terms of averages.

And if I did this over the two World Cups, they are still number one.

While we can all have concerns over the scoring efficiency of this method. Pakistan have decided that their bowlers can keep teams down to sub par totals, and their openers will help them regularly score par totals. And you look at their record over the last few years of T20, and they are right.

Powerplay comparison

Perhaps nothing had defined Pakistan’s struggles in this tournament as much as the failures of their opening pair. Babar and Rizwan were meant to be the heart of their batting efforts, instead they had barely managed to contribute at all.

They had just 142 runs between the two of them coming into this game. Needless to say if both of your opening pair are not making many runs, you’re unlikely to have a very good powerplay.

All that changed today. Pakistan racked up 55 in the first six overs of their innings, Babar making the most of being dropped first ball to make sure New Zealand never really had a hope.

This was comfortably the biggest score Pakistan have made in the powerplay in the tournament – it was almost double what they managed against Zimbabwe, a paltry 28.

I actually think Pakistan’s batting would be best served promoting a bigger striker of the ball like Mohammad Haris up the order to split up their current openers.

However on a day like today it was hard to argue with the results they produced, scoring at more than 9 an over without losing a wicket. By comparison New Zealand were 38/2 after their powerplay.

It is probably no coincidence that Pakistan’s previous best powerplay effort, 42, came in what had been their best performance of the tournament so far – against South Africa.

While under little pressure, they also managed 41 in the thrashing of the Netherlands.

However before today, in their two high pressure games – the opener against India and the effective quarter final against Bangladesh – they managed just 32 and 35.
Today all that changed and with it Pakistan were transformed.

The post powerplay dip

Sure, playing well in the powerplay would have helped. But teams usually dip after it.

Pakistan is usually a slow scoring team in the front half anyway, it’s after the ten over mark they start to score some runs. It’s not in their nature to go hard in the powerplay, that is well known, but they don’t really kick on afterwards either.

Today they did both and scored a lot more runs in the first four overs after the post powerplay dip.

And that was important, because it allowed for Pakistan to stay well on top. Often you see teams start to pull it back when they are bowling around here, as the set batters start to knock it around, and they realise they have chipped for too long. And they lose a wicket, meaning the bowlers have a new end to aim for, and some scoreboard pressure.

From the third over to the 10th Pakistan outscored Pakistan in that same period. So it meant that there was no pressure, and New Zealand couldn’t find a way to create any of their own.

Mitchell’s semis

Coming into this match, I had a few concerns about the form of Daryl Mitchell. It appears we needn’t have worried.

Coming back from injury, Mitchell missed the first game and had looked far from his fluent best in the three games he had played - striking at just 112.

It seems once again he was just saving his best for a T20 World Cup semi-final.

Including today Mitchell has three T20I fifties, two have them have come in World Cup semi-finals. The last of course his thumping 72 from 47 that dumped England out of the last one.

Coming in today in the ninth over, his innings nearly ended at almost the earliest opportunity possible – Shan Masood missing a run out chance second ball.

New Zealand were fortunate that he did, Mitchell ended up scoring over a third of their runs and while Pakistan ended up chasing down the target easily, without Mitchell things could have been even uglier.

Mitchell finished with 53 from 35, the only New Zealand batsman really able to put any impetus into their innings. He particularly enjoyed himself against Shadab – three of his four boundaries, including the majestic six over long off, came off the legspinner.

Ultimately it wasn’t to be a repeat of his match-winning 2021 heroics, in the end New Zealand never really got close to Pakistan. The blame though could not be laid at Mitchell’s door.

Used pitches

There’s no rule that says World Cup knockout pitches should be new. There is a reason for that, in many parts of the world they don’t have the ability to produce multiple wickets that are in good positions for TV companies. Yeah, that is why it often happens. Probably not the grand conspiracy you were thinking of.

The problems in this is one of the most important games of cricket being played this year, and we’re reusing this wicket like we’re a midweek underage cricket team. And in Adelaide we will have a game on one that has been used twice before.

There’s a few issues here. Used wickets are a bit rubbish as in general batters can’t hit through the line, quicks bowled more slower balls and they can be harder to hit boundaries on, especially when the ball goes soft. Instead of promoting attacking cricket, they promote defensive cricket. I like bowlers being on top in T20 cricket, but I still think the death should have some biffing. These wickets put the bowlers on top in the least exciting way,

But there are plenty of pitches like that naturally, and for a normal T20 match, it’s just another wrinkle.

This is the SCG, traditionally it spins there, although, not really over the last few years. And being this is early summer Australia and La Niña has been smashing the east side of Australia, it could have been a seam friendly wicket that would have also changed the game. But if the SCG spin because it spins, or it seams because the curators couldn’t do much about it, fine.

If the ball had seamed more, that would help New Zealand. If it had extra pace that might have favoured Pakistan more. If it spun normally Pakistan get a slight bonus. If it was a flat batting wicket, New Zealand would get the bump. The problem with a used wicket is it’s probably only ever going to react one way, by being slower which would suit Pakistan.

But World Cups are about problem solving and adapting. New Zealand knew it would be like this, and they still couldn’t get on top. Remember they also made a final of a tournament in the UAE a year back. And so did Australia, so there is that.

The real problem isn’t what the surface did, or who it favoured, but this pitch has been dictated by the ICC not really caring too much about what happens in the actual cricket. You would think they would want the best surface to play on, but they don’t care. The idea that they do this to favour Asian teams is pretty funny, since in ODI cricket we have two balls, and people think that is to favour the non-Asian teams.

The truth is, the ICC do not care enough about their product. What actually happens on the field is almost never that important to them. And so we get a wicket that is shitter than it needs to be, and it seems the only people who care are the fans who pay for the thing.

Pakistan fielding

There is no good time to hit the ball to the right hand of Shadab Khan and run. But Devon Conway had mis-timed the ball, and probably thought the lack of pace gave him a chance of a run. In fact, I think you would make that run most times, but there was a twist.

Look at how much the ball sat up. He didn’t have to bend, and it didn’t bounce too high to make it awkward, it sat up in the perfect way so he wouldn’t lose any time and could focus completely on the throw.

I also think Conway thought he would make it, and was taken aback by the bounce. So you see he barely even fully extends, and doesn’t dive.

All this reminds me of a conversation I had years ago with George Dobell where I told him that Shadab Khan was proof that Pakistan cricket was more professional, he was a proper fielding athlete that prided himself on being great out there. George said other players had good at fielding before, and as he said that, Shadab dived two metres at backward point to save a single.

It wasn’t just Shadab in this game, there was a crucial moment where New Zealand wanted to go, and Willimason got an inside edge that should have flown off to the boundary. But Rizwan got to it, and it ended up as a dot.

In contrast, New Zealand dropped three chance. A tough one early from Conway that really mattered. But then a simple chance to Santner later on, that perhaps was too late. And a Sodhi one that definitely was.

First three balls

Shaheen Afridi charges in first ball and goes for the glory ball and Finn Allen smashes it back past him. Next ball Shaheen goes for pretty much the same delivery again, but it gets through Allan and Erasmus gives it out, after an hour. Turns out there is an edge and Allen gets a reprieve, A one ball reprieve, because next ball Erasmus gives him again, and there is no edge.

This ended up being a game where scoring in the powerplay was really important. That new ball was huge, and if anyone was set up to win it, it was Finn Allen. If he gets 30 runs off the first three overs, that would have changed the shape of this match. He and Shaeen were always going to go hard at each other, Shaheen won, and then so did Pakistan.