There are parallels. They may not mean anything, but they’re there, if you’re the kind of cricket fan who looks for them. And if you’re a Pakistan fan, you’re always looking for parallels to 1992.
And then we come to Pakistan. A Pakistan who were all but out of the tournament, only for forces beyond human comprehension – Qudrat ka Nizam*, you might say – to carry them into the semi-finals. They come there fuelled by pace, left-arm swing, and wristspin, among other things (things that don’t quite match the just-like-92 theme), tigers who are cornered no more.
Whatever will be, will be as nature wills it.
New Zealand WLWWL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Tim Southee and Trent Boult have been in four World Cup finals across the three formats, but they’re yet to get their hands on a white-ball trophy. This could be their last chance, and they could do something about it if they get the new ball moving around against Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who are under immense pressure individually and as an opening combination at this tournament.
Mitchell Santner has only bowled seven balls to left-hand batters at this World Cup so far. Pakistan have the tools with which they can put him under pressure, if they deploy Shan Masood and Mohammad Nawaz at the right time. Much as they did to counter the threat of Shakib Al Hasan, they could promote Nawaz up the order and hold Mohammad Haris back.
Kane Williamson (31 off 36 balls, one dismissal) and Daryl Mitchell (13 off 15 balls, one dismissal) have struggled against legspinners at this World Cup. How they handle Shadab Khan through the middle overs could be a key battle.
New Zealand (possible): 1 Finn Allen, 2 Devon Conway (wk), 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Glenn Phillips, 5 Daryl Mitchell, 6 James Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Lockie Ferguson.
After their narrow defeat to India in their opening game, Pakistan decided to sacrifice the extra batter in order to play the fourth quick. As tempting as it may be to strengthen their batting depth in a knockout game – by bringing in, say, Asif Ali for Mohammad Wasim – it seems unlikely they’ll change a combination that’s worked for them.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 2 Babar Azam (capt), 3 Mohammad Haris, 4 Shan Masood, 5 Iftikhar Ahmed, 6 Mohammad Nawaz, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Mohammad Wasim, 9 Naseem Shah, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Haris Rauf.
Pitch and conditions
Teams batting first have won five out of six games played at the SCG so far at this World Cup. But there’s one factor that could reduce the impact of the toss: the pitch that will be used for the semi-final is the same one that hosted the Super 12s opener between Australia and New Zealand. It was the flattest and most batting-friendly of the three pitches that have been used so far in Sydney.
There is a small chance of rain on Wednesday morning, but the weather should clear up by the time the match is scheduled to start.
Stats and trivia
- Wednesday’s match will be the SCG’s third Men’s World Cup (50-overs and T20) semi-final. The Daren Sammy National Stadium in St Lucia and the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo have hosted three semi-finals each, while The Oval and Old Trafford have hosted four each.
- In the powerplay phase of this World Cup, Pakistan have scored at a run rate of 5.93. Only Zimbabwe and Netherlands have done worse since the start of the Super 12s stage.
- Five members of the Pakistan XI that lost to Australia in the semi-finals of last year’s T20 World Cup have played no part in this edition of the tournament – Fakhar Zaman (through injury), Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Imad Wasim and Hasan Ali.
- New Zealand were losing finalists in that tournament; from the XI that featured in the final, only Tim Seifert has failed to make their squad for this edition. Martin Guptill is part of their squad but hasn’t featured in their XI yet.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo