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Rizwan: Babar and I decided to 'attack the new ball' on 'tricky' pitch

Kane Williamson, meanwhile, felt New Zealand's bowlers could have been more disciplined against Pakistan's openers

Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan got back into their groove, New Zealand vs Pakistan, T20 World Cup 2022, 1st Semi-Final Sydney, November 9, 2022

Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan made a conscious decision to go hard in the powerplay  •  AFP/Getty Images

Coming into their semi-final against New Zealand at the SCG, Pakistan had one of the worst powerplay records of any batting team at this World Cup, with a scoring rate of just 5.93 in that phase - only Zimbabwe and Netherlands had done worse. Their openers Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan were under pressure both individually and as a combination, with numerous experts including ESPNcricinfo's Robin Uthappa suggesting that one of them move down the order, with Mohammad Haris promoted to open.
On the big day, however, Babar and Rizwan delivered, scoring brisk fifties and putting on 105 off 76 balls to put Pakistan on top in a chase of 153. They scored 55 of their runs in the first six overs - it was Pakistan's best powerplay of the tournament, bettering their 42 for 3 against South Africa by a fair distance.
Rizwan was the early aggressor, hitting five fours in the first five overs to race to 26 off 13 balls. While receiving the Player-of-the-Match award for his 43-ball 57, Rizwan said it had been a deliberate ploy from Pakistan to go hard in the powerplay, with the awareness that batting would get harder against the older ball on this used pitch at the SCG.
"When we crossed the boundary line, me and Babar decided that we can attack the new ball, because we knew that the pitch was tricky, a little bit difficult, and 150 [153] was a good target on this pitch," Rizwan said. "We decided we're going to do hard work and attack these guys, and when we finish the powerplay, one of the guys will go deep, because obviously pitch was tricky, and Alhamdulillah, Allah helped us and we succeeded."
There was clear aggressive intent in a number of Rizwan's early boundaries, most notably when he swung across the line to belt good-length balls from Tim Southee into the leg side. But some of Pakistan's early running was also helped by loose bowling from New Zealand's quicks. Trent Boult, in particular, had an off day - he found Babar's edge early, only for wicketkeeper Devon Conway to put down a diving chance, but he also offered the batters width on several occasions.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson admitted that his bowlers could have made it harder for Pakistan's openers.
"Fielding was okay," he said, when asked about New Zealand's uncharacteristic lapses on the field. "Yeah, look, Babar and Rizwan, at the top of the order, put us under pressure and played really nicely. If we're honest with ourselves, we wanted to be a little bit more disciplined with our areas, and make that a little bit more difficult to get away on, if we were able to just keep it nice and straight.
"Having said that, there's always different parts of the game you want to touch on to do a little bit better, but at the end of the day Pakistan certainly deserved to be the winners."
Like Rizwan, Williamson also felt New Zealand had posted a fairly challenging total given the conditions.
"I thought we were put under pressure early," he said. "Pakistan bowled really nicely, and we managed to sort of wrestle back some momentum. Unbelievable knock from Daryl Mitchell [53 off 35 balls], and at the halfway stage we were all feeling like that's a competitive total.
"We knew the wicket was a little bit tough, a used surface, and yeah, very disappointing to not make Pakistan work a lot harder for that. They were outstanding, we were outplayed today. Credit goes to their quality - they certainly deserved their win. A tough pill for us to swallow, we certainly pride ourselves in a number of areas, strengths of ours, and didn't quite do that today."