Hello everyone and welcome to the first semi-final of the 2022 T20 World Cup. Either New Zealand or Pakistan will be the first to book their place in the final. On form in this tournament, it should be New Zealand – but on past form in knock-outs between these sides, they don’t stand a chance.
NZ will lose because … (a) they’ve had three meetings with Pakistan in situations like this and lost the lot. (b) NZ, historically, are not as good at T20 as Pakistan, who lead them by 17 wins to 11, some way from the parity you might expect. (c) After their sorry start and sudden revival, it feels as if Pakistan are pulling their favourite trick again, the dance of the cornered tigers, 30 years on from the original.
Pakistan will lose because … (a) those three previous knock-out games against NZ are distant history, the most recent being 15 years ago, which, in T20 terms, is basically Victorian times. (b) Babar Azam, usually so serene, has been having a nightmare, making scores of 0, 4, 4, 6 and 25, and not even making them fast – those 39 runs have come off 63 balls, making you wonder if he is now a Sunil Gavaskar tribute act. (c) The match is in Sydney, where the ball turns, and NZ have two of the top seven spinners in the tournament in Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi – two of the top five if you go by performances at the SCG, where NZ have played twice and won twice, marmalising Australia and Sri Lanka.
In other words, as usual, there’s no way of telling who will win. Let’s just sit back and enjoy the duel between two entertaining teams, with Shaheen Shah Afridi’s pace and chutzpah coming up against Glenn Phillips’s penchant for sixes.
The forecast, by Australia’s rather soggy recent standards, is encouraging. Play starts at 7pm Sydney time, 8am in the UK, and I’ll be back 25 minutes before that with the toss and the teams.
Tim will be here shortly. While you wait, here’s Simon Burnton on Pakistan’s wild ride to the semi-finals.
The first semi-final of the T20 World Cup throws together two teams whose experience of the competition so far could not have been more different. Where New Zealand’s thumping victory over Australia in their opening game put them instantly in control of their group, Pakistan’s presence in the final four, having lost their first two games to India and Zimbabwe, feels like a minor miracle.
For the batter Shan Masood even playing in those games was extraordinary, given that during a net session before the first he was hit full on in the head by a vicious shot from Mohammad Nawaz.
“I took my helmet off, and I was walking across the nets to get some water, and then I heard someone saying, ‘Watch out!’ And before I could do anything I felt something hit my ear,” he says. “I went down, and my first thoughts were, it’s hit me really hard. I thought at least it would be a fracture or something. I was taken to hospital, but when the scan came out it was just bruising.
“Next day I was not allowed to partake in practice, but I passed every single concussion test, I was good to go. I did not have any practice before the game but I tried to reframe it. I said, ‘look, anything could have happened. I could have been in hospital. I could have been back home. But I’m actually here and I’m playing, so savour the occasion, make the most of it.’”