Three from three and our ticket to the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20 has been stamped! Another all-round display from the BLACKCAPS has seen them wipe aside Pakistan by 22 runs in an entertaining encounter in Mohali.
The familiar sight of Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson strolling to the crease opened proceedings and the pair again dominated the power play with 55 runs posted without loss. Guptill would prove the innings rock with 80 off 48 and he was ably supported by cameos in the middle as well as a quick fire 36 from his good mate Ross Taylor.
Sharjeel Kahn (47 off 25) got Pakistan off to a flyer but the rest of his order couldn’t maintain the frenetic pace as the BLACKCAPS bowlers wrestled back the ascendency through the middle and held their nerve coming home.
Man of the Match: Martin Guptill. 80 runs off just 48 balls with 10 fours and 3 sixes at a strike rate of 166.66. His innings leaps out of the scorebook at you and for good reason. He combined power and placement expertly and mixed in some great running between the wickets in a mature knock which oozed class. He’s now scored 125 runs in the group stages — the second most behind England’s Joe Root. There’s a rather large Twenty20 tournament coming up in this country next month. A few franchise owners may be regretting their decision to pass up on 'Marty two-toes’!
Key moment: Corey Anderson not only bats and bowls (cue singing if you know the tune), but also takes incredibly important catches. With Afridi 19 off 8 and looking ominous, 'Boom-boom' was his side’s big hope heading down the stretch with Pakistan needing close to 12 an over. Afridi came down the wicket to Sodhi and looked to have successfully cleared the boundary, only to be thwarted be a leaping Anderson, who expertly negotiated the rope and sent Pakistan's trump card back to the shed.
Shot of the match: Gave himself room, waltzed down the wicket and effortlessly flicked it over long-off for six. Luke Ronchi's maximum off Mohammad Irfan was a thing of beauty. Ronch’s has just picked up some new bats this week and by the look of this shot — it’s good wood! Speaking of beautiful, shoutout to Guptill's overall wagon wheel, which had beautiful lines covering all areas of the pie.
Ball of the match: Mohammad Sami has a habit of picking up big wickets, a reputation he lived up to tonight. His delivery to remove Guptill won't make too many highlight reels, but its significance can't be doubted. He brought a halt to the BLACKCAPS red-bearded opener's onslaught, cramping him for room and getting him to play on to his stumps. Rumour has it that one BLACKCAPS media commentator projected Guptill for a century the ball beforehand — he can take some of the blame … can’t you Wlly.
In the field: See Key Moment for item one, but an honourable second goes to Grant Elliott. Fielding at long on, Elliott displayed the experience those wispy greys in his beard would suggest, swallowing a catch which went miles into the Mohali sky.
Quirk: One for the funny files for sure. Having dropped his bat mid-pitch while completing the first run on the final ball of our innings, Grant Elliott showed his utter commitment to the cause by turning at the keepers end with just his foot and proceeding to sprint back for the two. The sight of the 37-year-old pumping his arms as he ran up and down the wicket without his trusty blade resembled a horse coming down the home straight without it's jockey. Sure he'll get ribbed by the boys for it, but every run counts, right!?
Next up: The prospect of a semi-final is obviously very exciting, but coach Mike Hesson would like to remind everyone to calm down and remember that there is still one group game left. The BLACKCAPS head to Kolkata to face Bangladesh. The carrot of top seed into the semi finals as well as keeping the juggernaut rolling should be more than enough to get the boys up again. Bring it on!