Who would’ve backed Pakistan to come out on top when New Zealand posted a mighty 402-run target? Ramiz Raja’s expression had certainly summed it up when he paused for a while, smiled and then steered away from the topic when asked about the possibility of Pakistan chasing it down. Yet, at the end of a rather frustrating wait at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday evening, it was Pakistan who emerged victoriously with the win coming down to two factors – impertinent rain through the second innings and Fakhar Zaman’s rampaging century prior to it. The unbeaten knock of 126 helped Pakistan win by 21 runs on DLS method and hence survived a knockout blow in World Cup 2023.
Zaman was dropped after the opening match against Netherlands owing to string of poor shows. However, with Imam-ul-Haq being out of form, the left-handed batter was recalled in the match against Bangladesh where he smashed 81 in Pakistan’s win at the Eden Gardens before scoring a fiery century in Bengaluru against the 2019 runner-up in the do-or-die battle.
The 1992 champions had lost Abdullah Shafique early in the chase before Fakhar combined with captain Babar Azam to stitch a stellar 194-run stand, the joint-highest partnership for Pakistan in ODI World Cups for any wicket. The skipper remained unbeaten on 66 as Pakistan amassed 200 for the loss of one wicket in 25.3 overs before rain disrupted the proceedings for the second and final time.
Impressed with the knock, India batting legend Virender Sehwag took a brutal dig at Pakistan as he questioned the logic behind benching an able batter in Fakhar through the better part of the tournament.
“What an innings by Fakhar Zaman, by far Pakistan’s best batter. Which brains kept him on the bench for the best part of the tournament, God knows. Protein ki bhi kami nahin, jajbe ki bhi,” he posted on X.
Earlier in the tournament, during a presser, Imam was asked about the lack of sixes being hit by Pakistan’s top-order batters in the tournament. He replied saying: “Maybe we want to eat more proteins and not that much carbs, but it’s just that there’s nothing we want to talk about it. We really don’t feel it if we are not hitting sixes or fours. Its just what are we doing for the team.”
The top four have in fact managed only 36 sixes in this World Cup so far, the fifth most among the 10 teams. Fakhar alone hit 18 sixes in his last two innings, 11 of which came en route to his century.