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Feature

Two first-over slips shape New Zealand's forgettable semi-final

It was not quite Mitchell Starc vs Brendon McCullum at the MCG, but another big early wicket set the tone for Pakistan's domination at the SCG

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
09-Nov-2022
Two first-over moments summed up a semi-final that never got off the ground for New Zealand: Finn Allen pinned lbw third ball, and Babar Azam given a life first ball by Devon Conway behind the stumps.
This time it wasn't Mitchell Starc at the MCG - they had dealt with him in emphatic style during the opening game of the Super 12s - but instead another left-armer with a habit of taking opening-over wickets. Allen started like he had against Starc at the beginning of the Super 12s, drilling Shaheen Afridi's first ball down the ground for four, but that was as good as it got. Second ball he was given lbw and reprieved thanks to a massive inside edge; next delivery there was no second chance. To say it got the crowd going would be an understatement.
It was not quite the hammer blow that Brendon McCullum's dismissal was in 2015, but it immediately removed the top-order player who provides something different for New Zealand. Allen is given license to play with freedom, some days it will work spectacularly, as it did against Australia with 42 off 16 balls, others it will not. There is no crime in that. However, it meant the powerplay immediately reverted to something less threatening.
Conway threatened to take up the mantle with two boundaries in Naseem Shah's first over, but the next three did not produce one. Conway dispatched Haris Rauf's first ball of the sixth over only to be run out by Shadab Khan's direct hit - a highlight of a very sharp fielding display from Pakistan - and while 38 for 2 was not a calamity it meant there was ground to make up.
Daryl Mitchell, the hero of last year's semi-final against England, stitched together a commendable innings but it never really happened, even if in typical New Zealand style they scrapped their way to something that might have been defenable.
For a while it felt like the group match against Sri Lanka on this ground: on that day, New Zealand were 76 for 3 after 13 overs with Mitchell and Glenn Phillips having done the rebuilding. Today after 13 overs they were 89 for 3. But this time Phillips was back in the dugout - you could tell by Babar's celebrations that he could sense the moment when Mohammad Nawaz took the return catch to ensure that - and there were only two boundaries in the last five overs. For that, Pakistan's bowlers also deserve significant credit.
With 152 on the board everything needed to go New Zealand's way, and you wouldn't have put it past them to find a way. But in the first over from Trent Boult their moment slipped away.
Babar, who has struggled throughout the tournament and had played an innings so far from his usual fluent self against Bangladesh, pushed at a delivery from Boult which started to shape in then nibbled away off the surface, drawing an outside edge. However, Conway had been wrong-footed behind the stumps, perhaps by the early movement, and the nick flew low to his right. He got there with one glove but couldn't grab hold in the webbing. You could see the anguish in Boult's eyes as he watched the replay.
Boult's next over went for 15 and by the end of the powerplay Pakistan were 55 without loss. They had hit nine boundaries in six overs; New Zealand managed 12 in their whole innings. It would have taken an horrendous mess up from them (yes, this is Pakistan) to lose their grip on the match from there and while New Zealand got it to 19 off 15 balls, and took it to the final over, there was no miracle for them.
"At the halfway stage we knew we had something to defend and guys were pretty pumped to go out and take on the challenge," Williamson said. "We knew we had to operate well and weren't quite on top of our game. Pakistan were outstanding with the bat. Throughout this tournament there's been a lot of good, it's just frustrating not to put out a better performance."
With 31 needed off 30, which with nine wickets in hand should have been comfortable anyway, Mitchell Santner spilled Mohammad Haris at point. With 21 needed off 18, Conway fumbled a take behind the stumps and allowed a scampered bye. Two balls later, Haris took Lockie Ferguson for a four and a six and even the smallest element of doubt was gone.
Dil, Dil, Pakistan echoed around the SCG. Meanwhile, for New Zealand it was a familiar tune of their own. The wait for major limited-overs silverware goes on.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo