Cricket World Cup 2023: Fakhar Zaman century leads Pakistan to crucial win over New Zealand

ICC Men's World Cup, Bengaluru

New Zealand 401-6 (50 overs): Ravindra 108 (94), Williamson 95 (79); Wasim 3-60

Pakistan 200-1 (25.3 overs): Fakhar 126* (81), Babar 66* (63); Southee 1-27

Pakistan won by 21 runs (DLS)


An astonishing batting display kept Pakistan's World Cup semi-final hopes alive in a rain-affected encounter against New Zealand in Bengaluru.

Set 402 to win, Pakistan raced to 160-1 in 21.3 overs with Fakhar Zaman hitting a sublime 63-ball century before the rain fell.

Pakistan were given a revised target of 342 in 41 overs but only four more overs were possible.

Fakhar finished with 126 and captain Babar Azam 66 in a crucial 21-run win.

The Black Caps piled up 401-6 after Rachin Ravindra's masterful 108, but struggled with a depleted bowling line-up after injuries to seamers Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson.

Pakistan's batters capitalised on a good batting pitch, with Fakhar smashing 11 sixes in his knock while Babar played a supportive role.

Despite their bowling woes, New Zealand's batting was strengthened by the return of captain Kane Williamson, who made a majestic 95 in a second-wicket stand of 180 with opener Ravindra.

Cameos from Daryl Mitchell, Mark Chapman and Glenn Phillips propelled New Zealand past 400 as Pakistan's bowlers also struggled.

Haris Rauf's figures of 1-82 were the most expensive by a Pakistan bowler in World Cup history, only for Shaheen Afridi to break the record minutes later with 0-90.

The result keeps the group stage open, though New Zealand remain favourites for a semi-final spot because of their superior net-run rate to Afghanistan and Pakistan, with all three teams on eight points.

Pakistan's next game comes against England on 11 November, who could still be in contention for a semi-final spot if they beat Australia in Saturday's later fixture.

Fakhar's heroics keep Pakistan dreaming

Chasing such an imposing total required something very special from Pakistan, and 33-year-old Fakhar was fearless in the face of such a challenge.

His performance was all the more incredible given the nature of his World Cup campaign so far: he played in Pakistan's opening game of the World Cup against the Netherlands, was dropped for the next five, then returned with a swashbuckling 81 against Bangladesh in their most recent outing.

It was a brutal innings but a smart one, too.

There was pressure on New Zealand's strike bowler Trent Boult, given their limited resources, and Fakhar wisely targeted him to take 42 runs from his opening four overs.

The experienced Tim Southee took the early wicket of Abdullah Shafique in the second over, but was also largely unthreatening, only playing his second game of the tournament after a thumb injury.

Unable to contain Fakhar's ferocious scoring all around the ground, Williamson turned to his spinners early but with little assistance from the pitch, they were just as ineffective and played into the hands of two fine players of spin.

Ravindra shines again and. Williamson's welcome return

New Zealand's World Cup campaign has been a mixed affair, with four successive wins followed by four defeats.

But regardless of their final position in the table, they have unearthed a star in 23-year-old Ravindra, who became the first New Zealand batter to score three centuries in a World Cup and the first batter ever to do so in their debut tournament.

He is a classical left-hander who possesses a valuable skillset, matching his style and class with the ability to score quickly in a manner that looks effortless, exemplified by reaching his century from just 88 balls.

The calmness of Williamson, making his return from a fractured thumb that he suffered in New Zealand's win over Bangladesh, made him Ravindra's perfect companion and the pair treated the enthusiastic Bengaluru crowd to an array of eye-catching drives, lofted sixes and deft touches to the boundary.

Defeat felt cruel on the pair, but as a side they can be buoyed by the positivity of Williamson's return, batting with such fluency it was as if he had strode to the middle straight from a net session.

Their batting line-up is significantly stronger with him in it, but is screaming for assistance from the bowlers.

Seamer Henry has been officially ruled out by a hamstring injury and replaced by Kyle Jamieson, which gives New Zealand another pace option, and they will be hoping that Ferguson can recover quickly from his wrist injury in time for a key encounter against Sri Lanka on 9 November.