A spell of rain in India’s Bengaluru Saturday suspended the Pakistan versus New Zealand match, currently being played at the M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, putting a temporary halt to the national side’s run-chase to win the crucial game in World Cup 2023.

Chasing a mammoth target of 402 runs set by the Kiwis, Babar and Co suffered a setback when opener Abdullah Shafique was dismissed for a meagre four runs after playing nine balls.However, Pakistan’s prolific batter Fakhar Zaman fought back and smashed the fastest century in just 63 balls at a strike rate of 157.81.Fakhar also got support from skipper Babar Azam, who did not disappoint and has lived up to the moment so far.The captain, who has not been below par in this World Cup, is also nearing his half-century. Babar is at 47.Earlier, Pakistan won the toss and decided to bowl first in the must-win game against the Black Caps.The team made one change inducting Hasan Ali in place of Usama Mir while the Kiwis made three changes in the squad. Ish Sodhi, Mark Chapman and Kane Williamson are playing today in place of James Neesham, Matt Henry and Will Young.When asked to comment on his preparation, Williamson said: “My personal prep has been slightly limited but nice to be back.”However, Babar Azam appeared confident of his bowlers, saying “we bowled well in previous matches”.

The winner of today’s game will become a strong contender to qualify for the semi-final.Pakistan suffered four humiliating defeats against India, Australia, Afghanistan, and South Africa. However, they gave some hope to fans by beating Bangladesh by seven wickets in their last match in Kolkata.On the other hand, despite a bright start and having four out of four wins at one point, the Black Caps suffered three consecutive defeats — India, Australia and South Africa.A defeat to either of the teams today would seriously damage their chances of playing the event’s semi-final, especially Pakistan since they are not just behind in net run rate (NRR) but now also have to rely on Afghanistan’s matches after Hashmatullah Shahidi’s men clinched a significant win against the Netherlands on Friday.A day earlier, team director Mickey Arthur expressed his focus on both winning the game and improving their net run rate. He also indicated a change in Pakistan’s game plan.Pakistan are likely to play with four pacers considering the favourable pacey conditions in Bengaluru but the decision will be taken after closely monitoring the pitch and weather conditions today. They only have two players — Shadab Khan and Imam-ul-Haq — who remain a doubt for today’s clash while the Black Caps will be without pacer Matt Henry, and the participation of Lockie Ferguson, Kane Williamson and Mark Chapman remain a doubt.

Pitch report

The pitch at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium supports batters as it is easy to score runs there because of short boundaries and quick outfield. The surface in Bengaluru is also favoured for pacers but looking at tomorrow’s weather forecast, where there’s a 50% chance of rain, especially during the second half of the game, winning the toss would be key.

Head-to-head record

The two sides have faced each other nine times in the ODI World Cup history with Pakistan emerging winners seven times. New Zealand’s highest total against the Green Shirts is 302, while Pakistan’s highest is 281. Overall, Pakistan and the Kiwis have played one another 115 times in one-day cricket and the Men in Green leads there as well with 60 wins as compared to the Black Caps’ 51.

Playing XI

Pakistan: Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Agha Salman, Mohammad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf.New Zealand: Devon Conway, Rachin Ravindra, Kane Williamson (c), Daryl Mitchell, Tom Latham (wk), Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Trent Boult

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