Pakistan captain Babar Azam backed to produce ‘something very special’ in T20 World Cup semi-final vs New Zealand

Pakistani captain Babar Azam will end his lean form and produce “something very special” in Wednesday’s T20 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in Sydney.

That is the view of Pakistani team mentor Matthew Hayden, with Babar averaging just 7.80 in the Super 12 stage, scoring just 39 runs in total and falling for singles figures four out of five times.

Babar is a former No. 1 T20I batter in the world rankings – India’s Suryakumar Yadav today ranks first – and has racked up over 3,200 runs and 31 over fifty scores in his T20I career to date.

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Leading up to a semi-final which you can watch live on Sky Sports Cricket (build up 7.30am, start 8.00am), former Australian Hayden said: “In every career you have important moments of ups and downs, and the challenges and the bumps along the way, they strengthen you and your greatness, how you perform under adversity.

“There is no doubt that Babar has had some setbacks. That will only make him an even greater player. You can’t go on putting out hundreds and 50s and success rates over 140.”

“As we all know about the weather, once there is a calm, a storm often follows. So watch out, rest of the world, because I think you’re about to see something very special from Babar.’

Babar Azam (Associated Press)
Babar Azam scored an average of under eight for Pakistan in the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup

Pakistan’s hopes of reaching the semi-finals seemed slim after they kicked off their Super 12 campaign with successive defeats to India and Zimbabwe – but victories over the Netherlands, South Africa and Bangladesh, coupled with South Africa suffering a shocking loss against the Netherlands, propelled de Babar’s men into the final four.

They are now two wins away from a second T20 World Cup title, having won their first in England in 2009.

‘Welcome to cricket in Pakistan!’

Pakistan’s progress in Australia has drawn comparisons to Imran Khan’s ‘cornered tigers’ of 1992, with that side winning the 50-over World Cup on the brink of elimination.

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Shaheen Afridi was knocked out by wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva from the last ball of the innings as Zimbabwe triumphed by one run over Pakistan

Hayden added: “That was a momentous event for Pakistani cricket. It was also a tournament plagued by the nuances of Pakistani cricket; that is, there is no dominant performance.

“There is a performance that is challenged and then Pakistan suddenly shows up and they are dangerous and formidable. And that tournament was just that.

“[Pakistan all-rounder] Shadab Khan said something very important in the dugout the other day when we played our last game: ‘welcome to cricket in Pakistan’.

“(This was an) incredible experience. It was a roller coaster ride, but a ride I wouldn’t have had any other way.”

Kane Williamson (Associated Press)
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson led his team to first place in Group 1, ahead of England, who finished in second place

Williamson: Some players have stood up

New Zealand aim to reach their third World Cup final in four years – and hope to finally clinch the trophy after losing to England in the 50-over final at Lord’s in 2019 and then losing to Australia in the 2021 T20 final in the UAE.

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson said: “The fickle nature of T20 and the competitive nature of the tournament, where all teams beat each other, means there is no reliance on one or two players.

“There have been some players who have stood up a number of times, and everyone has definitely raised their hands. It’s really trying to play together as a team and focus on that.”

“We are definitely focused on our challenge. And it is a strong Pakistan.”

Watch New Zealand vs Pakistan live on Sky Sports Cricket on Wednesday. Set up will begin at 7.30am for an 8.00am start at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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