Black Caps beaten by Pakistan in opener

Shaheen Shah Afridi celebrates the dismissal of Tim Seifert. Photo: Getty Images
Shaheen Shah Afridi celebrates the dismissal of Tim Seifert. Photo: Getty Images
The Black Caps' day started with bleak news - their best bowler, Lockie Ferguson, had been ruled out of the Twenty20 World Cup with a calf tear.

It ended with an equally grim reality - their Cup campaign is already on the ropes.

A five-wicket defeat to Pakistan leaves the Black Caps perilously poised in their quest to make the semifinals, with sizeable stakes placed on Monday morning's match against India.

Lose that clash, and the Black Caps would need to win their remaining three games against Afghanistan, Scotland and Namibia, while hoping India trip up against the minnow trio. Even if India were stunned, the Black Caps would still need a superior net run rate than India to progress.

Beat India on Monday though, and qualification is in their own hands.

It's a stark equation to be facing after just one game, but such is life in the Black Caps' top-heavy pool, after they were outplayed by Pakistan in their opener.

What a catch

Black Cap Devon Conway may have already taken the catch of the tournament. In his first game at a World Cup, Conway flew through the air to take a diving, full-length catch to his left to dismiss Mohammad Hafeez, leaving the Pakistani batsman and fans in the crowd stunned.

Inserted to bat in Sharjah, 134-8 was probably 15 runs below par, with none of the Black Caps batsmen able to produce a game-changing innings.

Daryl Mitchell came the closest, with 27 off 20 balls after he was promoted to open the innings following a successful trial in the role in warm-up matches.

He and Martin Guptill (17 off 20) had set a decent platform, with Guptill seeing off the dangerous Shaheen Shah Afridi, while Mitchell attacked, and although Guptill was bowled off his pads, 42-1 at the end of the six-over powerplay was a solid foundation to build upon.

There was little construction to follow though, with Mitchell holing out, and Jimmy Neesham's promotion lasting two balls before he was also caught on the boundary, slapping an innocuous Mohammad Hafeez delivery to deep midwicket.

Kane Williamson was scratching around on 13 off 21, and Devon Conway struggling on three off eight, but two big overs saw the pair find the rope five times, launching from 63-3 after 11 overs to 90-3 after 13.

That revival ended with Williamson, who looked for a quick single but hit the ball straight back to bowler Hasan Ali, who hurled down the stumps as Williamson desperately tried to dive back into his crease.

The soft dismissal was followed by a 23-ball stretch without a boundary as neither Conway (27 off 24), Glenn Phillips (13 off 15) or Tim Seifert (eight off eight) could create a spark against some excellent Pakistani death bowling.

While far from ideal, defending 135 wasn't a dire situation, and by taking the pace off the ball and putting catching fielders in close, the Black Caps returned a dose of pressure to the Pakistan top order.

Tim Southee and Trent Boult's slower balls restricted the run rate, with Southee becoming the third bowler to claim 100 international T20 wickets when he bowled Babar Azam.

Early efforts from Neesham and Ish Sodhi contributed to tying down Pakistan, and when Sodhi trapped Fakhar Zaman lbw, Pakistan were teetering at 47-2 after nine overs.

Sodhi also removed the dangerous Mohammad Rizwan, while a stunning Conway catch - diving full-length to his left at long-off – removed Hafeez as Pakistan's asking rate started to get nervy – 42 required from 26 balls.

Enter Asif Ali.

Two booming sixes off a Tim Southee over reduced the requirement to 24 off 18, before Shoaib Malik also cut loose, smacking 12 off the first three balls of Mitchell Santner's over as victory was delivered with eight balls to spare.

Perhaps the result would have been different had Ferguson been fit, but the Black Caps now have a new reality - down a man and down a game, they're going to have to do it the hard way.




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