The bludgeoning game that cricket has evolved to in its shortest avatar demands instant pulverization of the bowler. So, when Martin Guptill managed just a single in response to Muhammad Amir’s opening over’s probe, the cheer from Pakistan’s sizable number of supporters did suggest optimism about their team’s chances.
A ball into the second over, Guptill stepped away from the wicket to free his arms and then hit Muhammad Irfan for a massive six right over his head. That made his intentions pretty clear and by the time Guptill was bowled out by Muhammad Sami in the 14th over, he had already amassed 80 and the Kiwis looked in cruise mode with 127 on the board for the loss of three.
The Kiwi team management is pretty clear. Guptill’s role is to give the team a boost at the start and get the run rate ticking. He did just that. They ended with 180 for five and left Pakistan with an asking rate of just over nine.
Pakistan seemed up for the fight as Sharjeel Khan whacked Mitchell Santner’s first ball for four.
He did seem to have the devil’s own luck too. Almost everything he touched appeared to find the boundary – no matter if he meant it to go where it eventually ended up or not.
But in this form of cricket, it’s not form that matters but rather just how the scoreboard ticks on. Any coach watching that knock may well have torn his hair out but for the hit-happy public, it made for a gleeful spectacle. It even made for fun watching for the pundits in the press box as the sheer pluck and luck involved did elicit exclamations of both amazement and mirth.
Watch a T20 game go bizarre live and you begin to understand just why the traditionalists hate this format.
New Zealand were by far the better side against Pakistan on Tuesday but at a certain stage of the match it appeared that no matter how much disarray the men in green exhibited, they may just stutter to a win. After all, they needed 40 runs from the last 12 balls. But then, discipline in the field still pays. The extremely tight fielding and Mitchell McClenaghan’s precise line saw the asking rate climb to 30 in the final over.
Pakistan failed to hit a boundary after the 15th to illustrate the fact that while this format may have a significant bit of luck favouring the brave, it still demands the ability to swing free when pressure mounts.
Despite enough wickets in hand, Pakistan batsmen failed to do just that even as New Zealand became the first team to earn a semis berth in this World T20.