New Zealand v Pakistan
Wednesday June 26, 10:30
Live on Betfair Live Video and Sky Sports Cricket
Windies close call a wake-up call
New Zealand are one of only two unbeaten sides left in the competition, alongside India. They did their best to lose that status against the West Indies, though.
At several stages during the Windies' ultimately ill-fated chase they allowed them back into the game. Credit to Carlos Brathwaite and his brilliant century which got them one hit away from one of the World Cup's all-time great turn-arounds but the Kiwis should never have allowed things to go that close.
If they couldn't get Brathwaite out, they certainly should have got Kemar Roach and Sheldon Cottrell out much quicker. The Windies' numbers nine and ten got 29 runs between them but just as crucially, hung around for 57 balls between them to allow Brathwaite to do the damage at the other end. Yes, they got the job done in the end but Matt Henry in particular was very expensive and having started the tournament with seven wickets in two games, now has just one from his last three matches. He might be due a rest.
On a more positive note, theirs was an excellent recovery with the bat. With both openers gone for golden ducks (the form of the pair of them is another reason for concern), they recovered to post a very competitive 291/8. Skipper Kane Williamson was the star again with a second century in two matches.
It's harsh to criticise the side who can't stop winning but they'll need to improve in a few areas if they're going to win a big semi-final.
Pakistan haven't given up just yet
Write Pakistan off at your peril. Right now they're in their element. For them starting strongly in a tournament and being fancied is no fun.
But a backs-against-the-walls situation where every game is must-win and they're suddenly at their most dangerous.
They were good against South Africa with all of their top six getting to at least 20 en route to posting 308/7. Their batting hero was an unlikely one: Haris Sohail scored a quickfire 89 which was ultimately the difference between the two sides.
When defending a good total there was another good contribution from the vastly improved Mohammad Amir (below) while Wahab Riaz and Shadab Khan each took three wickets. They'll believe they can win their remaining matches and hope for a slip-up from England and/or Australia.
Back-to-back wins for New Zealand have gone a fair way to improving our P&L for the tournament after backing them against both South Africa and the West Indies. Better still was the 8/1 secured on Williamson being man-of-the-match last time out. His century saw him win the match gong though Trent Boult can consider himself pretty unlucky not to have got it himself.
But we're not going in again. The Kiwis are 4/6 and backing them the last two times had as much to do with obvious weaknesses in both South Africa and the Windies as it did with strengths in New Zealand. Pakistan are in the mood and might just put in a good performance here.
Williamson and the management may decide now is the time to mix things up a bit. Colin Munro is surely on borrowed time after a series of failures so Henry Nicholls might get a game while Tim Southee and Ish Sodhi carry on awaiting their chance to impress with the ball.
It's hard to know what effect any changes might have.
My gut feeling is that this might just be a good match to trade over on the Exchange rather than taking a pre-match punt and sticking with it. Here's my guide on in-play betting on one-day cricket.
Trent Boult secured New Zealand's win on Saturday night with a fine boundary catch that left Brathwaite on his knees but he'd done plenty of damage with the ball well before that.
His first spell saw him get rid of dangermen Shai Hope and Nicolas Pooran and his final one saw him dismiss Ashley Nurse and Elvin Lewis. His four wickets cost just 30 runs and he looked back to his best after a slow start to the tournament: bowling fast, getting it to swing and more often than not threatening the stumps.
Matt Henry (4/1) looks out of sorts, Mitchell Santner (9/2) is often more worried about keeping the runs down than taking wickets while all-rounders Jimmy Neesham (5/1) and Colin de Grandhomme rarely get enough overs to win this betting heat.
That leaves Lockie Ferguson (10/3), who we successfully backed a couple of matches ago. He's certainly way ahead of Boult on wickets taken for the tournament as a whole with 13 to Boult's eight but is looking a bit jaded himself and might also get a breather here.
With Boult looking like he's finding his rhythm at last, this could be a good chance to justify his favouritism. He's an 11/4 chance.
No-one for Pakistan has really got going with the bat. Few players in world cricket are as stylish at the crease as Babar Azam (3/1) and even fewer throw their wicket away when well set as him.
The two openers- Fakhar Zaman and Imam Ul-Haq (both 7/2) - had excellent records going into the tournament but just haven't got going, boasting just one fifty each.
The man to go with here might be Mohammad Hafeez. He was the match-winner against England and is the team's second highest scorer after Azam.
With New Zealand expected to attack Pakistan with raw pace at the start, there could well be a couple of early wickets and 'The Professor' might just need every bit of his cool head and patience to muster together a score here.
He's 9/2 to top score and that appeals.