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Pakistan battle for survival against unflappable New Zealand
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Pakistan battle for survival against unflappable New Zealand

With the World Cup entering into the business end of proceedings, the race for securing a spot in the semi-finals is getting tenser with each passing day.

Australia have already booked their ticket to the knockout stages, while India and New Zealand look almost certain to follow the path of the world champions, however, it's England's consecutive losses against Sri Lanka and Australia that has opened up the contest for the fourth semi-finalist.

Amidst this scenario, the high-stakes clash at Edgbaston could possibly be Pakistan's final chance of retaining their semi-finals dream.

The permutations for potential outcomes deciding Pakistan's future in the tournament seem to be in full flow as they would ideally be looking to win the remainder of their World Cup games.

Pakistan cruised to a comfortable win over South Africa on Sunday at the back of a sublime 59-ball 89 from Haris Sohail validating their tag of being a mercurial side since they suffered a humiliating loss to India the previous week.

New Zealand off-spinner Mitchell Santner is wary of the threat Pakistan pose and urged his teammates to write off Sarfaraz Ahmed's men at their own peril.

"Obviously, they've had a pretty good record over here," said the Black Caps all-rounder on the eve of the game.

"They won the Champions Trophy a couple of years ago and they've come off a pretty good win against South Africa."

"We're at the top at the moment (before the England v Australia result), but we can't take any games lightly."

He further praised Pakistan's bowling depth for possessing quality seamers that can upset any opposition.

Meanwhile, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson's cool-headed disposition has been at the fore of their last two close victories against South Africa and the West Indies, depicting their ability to emerge triumphant in pressure situations.

They make their way into the contest with a dominant record against Pakistan, having won 12 of their last 13 ODI encounters against the familiar foes.

New Zealand's remarkable pace battery

New Zealand's wins in this tournament can largely be credited to their pace bowling attack spearheaded by the extremely swift Lockie Ferguson.

Ferguson's go-to strategy in the World Cup has been roughing up the batsmen with intimidating short balls delivered with speeds in excess of 145 kph while mixing up the rapid pace with wonderfully disguised slower variations.

The Black Caps' strike force in all of their encounters thus far, it will be intriguing to see how the Pakistan batters cope with the aggressive tactics opted by Ferguson.

Pakistan's sloppy fielding displays

Pakistan's batting and bowling departments were efficiently covered in their 49-run win over the Proteas, but it was once again the shambolic fielding which made the headlines.

Pakistan head into the match with the worst drop percentage for all teams in the tournament, having grassed fourteen chances - six of them spilled during the Lord's outing.

They may have succeeded against a weaker opponent in South Africa the other day despite glaring errors in the field, but a team like New Zealand won't be too generous in providing second chances to Pakistan.

Squads

Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (c, wk), Asif Ali, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Imam-ul-Haq, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Fakhar Zaman

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Tom Blundell (wk), Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Ish Sodhi, Henry Nicholls, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Jimmy Neesham