By Niall Anderson in Manchester
The Black Caps' spot in the Cricket World Cup semifinals has been confirmed, after a trip to Lord's couldn't produce a miracle for Pakistan.
Needing to win the toss against Bangladesh, bat first, and then pull off the biggest win in ODI history to make up for their deficit on net run rate, Pakistan managed to get two out of three, winning the toss and batting first, but their final task was so implausible they hardly bothered to try accomplish it.
Score 350 batting first, and Pakistan would have had to win by 312 runs to make the semifinals. 400 would have required a victory of 316 runs, bowling Bangladesh out for 84 or fewer, while reaching 450 would have needed them to bowl Bangladesh out for 129 or fewer – and win by 321 runs. Score less than 308, and they would be eliminated before Bangladesh even took to the crease.
With that equation in mind, fireworks were expected when Imam ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman strolled out to the crease, but instead Pakistan produced a bizarrely passive start. After seven overs, Pakistan were coasting along at 23-0, and it took them 22 overs to even reach 100 – failing to live up to their pre-game talk about how they would be aiming for a miracle.
Their approach was perhaps an indication that they didn't think the task was plausible, and while Imam-ul-Haq (100 from 100 balls) and Babar Azam (96 from 98 balls) built a platform, they were still miles behind the required rates to make New Zealand even mildly concerned of missing out on a semifinal spot.
Eventually, they reached 315-9, meaning Bangladesh only had to reach eight in their response for the Black Caps to make the semis. Nine balls in, they were officially confirmed, with a single to Tamim Iqbal sealing the deal, and ending any intrigue.
Pakistan went on to win the game by 94 runs – an impressive performance outside of the semifinal context - and while they drew level on points (and wins) with the Black Caps, their net run rate of -0.43 was well behind the Black Caps' 0.175.
New Zealand now progress into the semifinals for the fourth straight World Cup and eighth time overall - tied with Australia for the most semifinal appearances in Cup history.
They will play at Old Trafford on Tuesday, against either Australia or India, with their opponent to be determined overnight.
India play Sri Lanka, while Australia take on South Africa, with an Australian victory locking up top spot and a semifinal showdown with the Black Caps. If Australia lose, an Indian victory would mean they would be the side travelling to Manchester to meet the Black Caps.
The Black Caps will come into the clash on the back of some poor form – having limped into the semifinals with three straight losses. However, they were clinical when required against an easier early schedule, and while they did get a stroke of luck with a rainout against India, they also made the most of their dominant displays, like in their opener against Sri Lanka.
That game saw the Black Caps roll Sri Lanka for 136, before chasing it down in just 16.1 overs – providing a huge early net run rate boost. Conversely, Pakistan's opening game against the West Indies was a nightmare, being routed for 105 in 21.4 overs, and seeing the West Indies chase it down in 13.4.
It was an ultimately crucial defeat, one which left them needing a Lord's miracle – but they barely had a prayer.