New Zealand aim to seal World Cup semi-final place but Pakistan pose threat at Edgbaston
Last Updated: 26/06/19 5:31pm
Pakistan will be hoping to capatalise on England's loss to Australia when they face an unbeaten New Zealand side at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
If Sarfaraz Ahmed's side can overcome the Black Caps, they will move within a point of fourth-placed England, with Bangladesh and Afghanistan their final two fixtures of the group stages.
In contrast, Eoin Morgan's side face stiff opposition in their last two matches, coming up against India at Edgbaston on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, before finishing off their campaign against New Zealand in Durham on Wednesday, July 3.
Despite heavy losses against the West Indies, India and coming up short against Australia, Pakistan pulled off a crucial win over England at Trent Bridge earlier in the tournament and eased to victory over South Africa in their last outing at Lord's to revive their semi-final hopes.
However, beating Kane Williamson's side will be no easy feat, with the Black Caps having built momentum with a relatively easy start to competition with wins over Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Williamson then struck two exceptional match-winning centuries, the first seeing New Zealand creep over the line against the Proteas while the second set up a brilliant see-saw game against the West Indies, which they edged by just five runs.
Victory against Pakistan on Wednesday would secure their semi-final berth, but should they fall to a first defeat of this competition, they face stiff tests against Australia and England in their remaining two fixtures.
With scenarios aplenty abound, Wednesday's match may well crank up the pressure on a number of teams, not least England.
New Zealand have named an unchanged line-up throughout the tournament and there are no indications that they intend to tinker with a winning formula. Although Matt Henry has endured a lean spell in the three games since his 4-47 against Bangladesh, he should get the nod again over Tim Southee, with leg-spinner Ish Sodhi also expected to miss out again.
Pakistan are also unlikely to make changes to the team that triumphed against South Africa, which should mean out-of-form batsman Shoaib Malik remains on the sidelines again.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Trent Boult, who finished with figures of 4-30 against West Indies, has been the most economical of the bowlers, but Lockie Ferguson is the man who seems to have the knack of picking up wickets at key moments. He took two in two balls at Old Trafford and returned to knock over Sheldon Cottrell late on as New Zealand inched home.
While Pakistan are renowned for their overall lack of consistency, left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir has been as reliable as they come at this World Cup, spearheading the attack and capturing a total of 15 wickets.
When it comes to the batsmen, Babar Azam has been the glue that holds an innings together - but Haris Sohail was an unexpected stand-out performer against South Africa. Recalled to the side for the first time since their opening-match drubbing by West Indies, Sohail struck 89 from 59 balls to ensure Pakistan topped 300.
WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood: "They are a very strong side and have won all their games. They've got match winners in their side, so it's going to be crucial for us to take wickets with the new ball. And when we bat, we need to get runs up front. If we can get our discipline right like last game - in batting, bowling and fielding - then we can beat any side."
New Zealand spinner Mitchell Santner: "You want everyone to step up at different times throughout the tournament, and I think that's what we've found so far. We haven't relied on a few guys to do the bulk of the work, but in saying that, being on the winning side in tight encounters gives the whole squad confidence."
Watch every match of the ICC Cricket World Cup live on Sky Sports Cricket World Cup, including New Zealand vs Pakistan from 10am on Wednesday.