Babar Azam celebrating his half-century during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup Semi Final match between Pakistan and New Zealand at Sydney Cricket Ground on November 09, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: Izhar Khan)

Pakistan has defied all the odds and will play in the 2022 ICC T20 World Cup Final after an emphatic victory against New Zealand by seven wickets.

Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam delivered a batting masterclass at the SCG, in front of a sea of green. Chasing down 152 runs, the openers put on a 105-run opening partnership, setting up the win to qualify for their first World Cup Final in 13 years.

Heading into the World Cup as No.1 and No.3 on the T20I batting rankings, both players, who have become one of the most prolific opening combinations in T20 cricket have failed to find form and runs throughout the tournament. Babar Azam especially.

Before the previous game against Bangladesh, Babar was averaging 3.50 runs a game in the World Cup. Known for his discipline, he has become an ODI and T20I legend. This included being the second quickest to reach 1000 T20I runs.

Despite the recent criticism he has faced this tournament, Babar found his timing and showed his class when his side needed it most. Along with Rizwan, they were able to take apart the New Zealand bowling attack, notching their eighth 100-run opening stand in T20 internationals and third at T20 World Cups to set up the win.

Babar Azam ( C ) of Pakistan bats during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Semi Final match between Pakistan and New Zealand at Sydney Cricket Ground on November 09, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: Izhar Khan)

After a rocky start where he was dropped on his first ball by keeper Devon Conway, The openers delivered a variety of orthodox cricket shots that lit the fans ablaze.

From cover drives, to cut shots and pull shots, the openers showed off everything in their arsenal.

The near-capacity crowd, mainly Pakistan fans cheered for every single run. But, went berserk for each one of their nine boundaries in the first six overs.

Pakistan ended the power-play with 55 runs in comparison to New Zealand’s 38, their highest power-play total for the tournament.

Continuing their dominance with the bat in the middle overs, the openers nudged singles around the ground whilst scoring the odd boundary. This caught them up to a run-a-ball in the 16th over.

Unfortunately, neither of the two openers could celebrate the winning runs. Departing in the 13th over, Babar ended his innings with 53 runs and a strike rate of 126.19 to his name.

Mohammad Rizwan would follow his captain in the sheds. Leaving in the 17th over, he put away 57 runs from 43 balls, including five boundaries.

Entering the World Cup as an injury replacement player, Mohammad Haris had a nice cameo of 30 runs. He would go on to hit Pakistan’s only maximum of the match and supported Rizwan.

Shaheen Shah Afridi of Pakistan celebrates wicket of Finn Allen of New Zealand during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Semi Final match between Pakistan and New Zealand at Sydney Cricket Ground on November 09, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: Izhar Khan)

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The short total they chased down was in large thanks to their bowlers, especially during New Zealand’s power play. An eventful first over from star paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi which saw the big wicket of Finn Allen fall, set up an economical phase of the game. A phase where the New Zealand batters just could not get going.

In the first six overs, they were able to keep the BlackCaps to just 38 runs. A phenomenal piece of fielding from Shadab Khan with a direct hit sent Conway on his way on the last ball of the power play to put a stamp on a great passage of play in the field for Pakistan.

“They bowled well in the power-play and restricted us,” Conway said about the Pakistan bowling attack.

Former Australian cricketer and now Pakistan team mentor Matthew Hayden applauded the Pakistan bowling attack post-match.

“Tonight was very special. That fast bowling attack you saw did an unbelievable job. I don’t think we have seen our best yet, which is probably the scarier part for whoever faces us (in the final),” Hayden said.

Returning to his peak fitness, the tall pace-bowler has gotten better in every game throughout the World Cup. Beginning his campaign with 0/63 in the first two games, he has risen back to his fiery best. This includes nailing ten wickets in the last five games.

The backbone of the Pakistan pace attack has helped guide the team to must-win games against South Africa, Bangladesh, and now New Zealand.

“We’re going to enjoy this moment. But at the same time have a focus on the final,” Babar said.

Pakistan will take on the winner of England vs India at the MCG on Sunday

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