New Zealand sealed their place in the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 as Martin Guptill’s brilliant 80 helped them to a 22-run win over Pakistan.
Guptill’s total, scored off 48 balls, was the driving force behind the Black Caps’ 180-5 on a good Mohali wicket.
Sharjeel Khan’s rapid 47 gave Pakistan hope but they were unable to maintain their momentum and ended on 158-5.
New Zealand top Group B with three wins from three, while Pakistan’s chances of progressing depend on other results.
Shahid Afridi and his side have two points, the same as their final opponents Australia and also India, both of whom have played one game fewer.
Guptill leads from the front
New Zealand’s highest score of the tournament so far was built around the brutally brilliant innings from Guptill, who made a mockery of the decision by Indian Premier League teams to overlook him for next month’s competition.
He signalled his intent by hammering Mohammad Irfan for a huge straight six as part of a 39-run contribution to a 62-run opening stand with Kane Williamson.
Despite the loss of the skipper and Colin Munro, Guptill continued his assault, scoring 31 from his last 15 balls before he played on to the pick of the Pakistan bowlers, Mohammad Sami, who took 2-23 in his four overs.
Another powerful hitter, Corey Anderson, fell soon after Guptill, caught by Shoaib Malik off Shahid Afridi, to somewhat stall the Black Caps innings.
But Ross Taylor’s intelligent innings steered them to an ultimately match-winning 180.
Pakistan fail to maintain electric start
Pakistan have illustrated already this tournament that they are capable of big scores in this format, with a total of 201-5 in the victory over Bangladesh in their opening game in Kolkata.
They scored 55-1 in the powerplay at the start of that innings but were even more aggressive against the Kiwi seam attack as Sharjeel Khan smashed nine fours and a six in an opening stand of 65 with Ahmed Shehzad before he was caught by Guptill off Adam Milne three balls into the fifth over.
Spin bowlers Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi then came to the fore, checking Pakistan’s progress with some tight bowling and timely wickets.
The former had both Khalid Latif (three) and Shehzad (30) caught as they strove to keep up the pace set by Sarjeel, before Sodhi claimed the big wicket of Afridi (19) – caught superbly on the boundary by Anderson.
With Umar Akmal still at the crease, Pakistan retained hope of victory but when he was caught by Guptill off the bowling of Milne, Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik were left with too much to do.