Cricket World Cup 2019: Form favours New Zealand, history leans towards Pakistan
Black Caps are unbeaten from six games so far, although Pakistan will be encouraged by World Cup history
New Zealand might be undefeated in the World Cup so far and in prime form, but the portents are ominous for them continuing that run against Pakistan at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
In fact, if history is any sort of guide, then the Black Caps might as well not bother turning up.
OK, so Pakistan have been in middling form – at best – so far this summer in the UK. But, in an uncanny quirk of fate, their results have been identical to the last time this format was employed at a World Cup.
In 1992, in New Zealand and Australia, the sequence in their first six matches ran: lost, won, no result, lost, lost, won.
As if to emphasise the point, in the sixth match of each sequence, the player of the match award was won by a left-hander named Sohail – Aamer, in the 48-run win over Australia in 1992, and Haris in the 49-run win over South Africa this time around.
Much still has to happen yet for Pakistan to repeat their feat of 27 years ago and actually win the title, but at least they still have a chance.
Victory in their last three pool matches – with games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh following the New Zealand one – would give them a chance of making the semifinals, dependent on results elsewhere.
New Zealand, for their part, will be paying little heed to the similarities with 1992 – they were themselves beaten by Pakistan in the semi-final – but they are still wary of their opposition.
“You have to prepare like they're going to come out and play their best cricket,” Mitchell Santner, the Black Caps spinner, said.
“We've seen early in this tournament they've taken down big sides. They took down England and took down South Africa the other day.
“When they're hot, they're really hot. We have to, obviously, find ways of trying to cool them down when they're like that.
“[But] we're playing pretty good cricket as well, so I think we're in for a pretty good match.”
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These two sides met in the UAE at the end of 2018, with the three-match one-day international ending drawn after a rare washout in the decider in Dubai.
“We've played Pakistan a lot recently,” Santner said. “We played them in New Zealand, which are similar conditions to over here.
“We're aware of their strengths, and I think Wahab [Riaz] back into their team is very good for them, and Mohammed Amir is bowling very well as well. We can't take them lightly.”
Azhar Mahmood, Pakistan’s bowling coach, said his side need to maintain the standards they set in beating South Africa last time out if they are to win.
“They're definitely a very strong side,” Mahmood said. “They won all of their games, so we know they're a strong side.
“If we can do our disciplines right, like we did in the last game [we can challenge them].
“Our ground fielding was really good [in the win over South Africa], but unfortunately we dropped a lot of catches. If we do our disciplines right, we can beat any side.”
Updated: June 26, 2019 08:16 AM