Spinners strangle Pakistan in big New Zealand win
Both teams had got off to strong starts with the bat, but New Zealand's spinners were the difference in a 54-run win
New Zealand women 144 for 6 (Bates 35, Devine 32, Riaz 2-29) beat Pakistan women 90 (Javeria 36, Watkin 3-9, Kerr 3-21) by 54 runs
World No. 3 New Zealand took their first step towards sealing third place in Group B with a comprehensive win over Pakistan. With India's result against Ireland earlier on Thursday ruling both these teams out of the semi-final race before the match began, the tempo of the game was fast and free-flowing. But New Zealand's batting might was backed up by their spinners in the middle overs, and after enduring a nervous start courtesy Javeria Khan in their defence of 144, New Zealand folded Pakistan rapidly to seal the 54-run win. Offspinner Jess Watkin took 3 for 9 in her four overs and was chiefly responsible for Pakistan's slow combustion. Legspinner Amelia Kerr played support with 3 for 21.
Both teams were aggressive during the batting Powerplays, but New Zealand found more in their top order than Pakistan would in chase. They reverted to their traditional opening pair of Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine and it was rewarded instantly when the pair put on 59. Importantly, New Zealand didn't let the rate fall even after Bates was dismissed, with No. 3 Amy Satterthwaite dropping anchor and allowing the more settled Devine to take on the attack. This was followed by another productive partnership between Satterthwaite and Katie Martin that kept the run rate hovering about 6.5 till the 18th over.
Pakistan bowled tightly in pockets, but sloppy ground fielding and a dropped catches seemed to regularly make their way in and break any passage where they created pressure. Any success they would have with the ball was delayed, with four wickets falling in the last two overs, but even there, it was bittersweet. Martin and Maddy Green combined to make 18 runs off boundaries as New Zealand pushed to finish on 144.
Pakistan's response was energetic and almost mirrored those final overs from New Zealand's innings; and they managed to do it without losing any wickets for three overs. Javeria and Ayesha Zafar stunned New Zealand with seven boundaries in the first three overs, and at 31 in three overs, Pakistan had brought the asking rate down dramatically. Javeria hit five of those fours, cashing on short balls from Devine and putting pressure on 18-year-old Kerr, manipulating the leg-side field, and even riding her luck with an inside edge to get three boundaries off the teenager's first over.
But Zafar was caught off the glove first ball of the fourth over against Leigh Kasperek, and from there it became evident that any fight they showed would be a lone battle from Javeria. No. 3 Umaima Sohail looked out of sorts every ball of her five-ball innings till Lea Tahuhu burst through her defence in the next over, and Bismah Maroof fell to Watkin shortly after the Powerplay had ended. Pakistan were 52 for 3 in the seventh over, still a decent rate, but the new batsmen coming in took time to settle.
This forced Javeria's hand and Pakistan's captain fell in the ninth over for a 23-ball 36 - caught off the glove, trying to reverse-sweep Watkin. Pakistan had made only five between her wicket and that of Maroof's, in the span of two overs. And they made only one more over the next six balls when the fifth wicket fell for 58. This was the period where New Zealand's spinners combined to squeeze the middle order who, to their credit, were still looking to score boundaries. It was just a case of being outdone by a quality spin attack on a highly conducive pitch. Very soon Pakistan realised they had no answers and the end parts of the innings became exhibitions in swinging across the line. Medium-pacer Hannah Rowe tucked in a nice little spell during that period and Kerr returned to take two wickets in the 18th over to bowl Pakistan out for 90 in their final group game.
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo