Babar Azam stars as Pakistan beat New Zealand to keep World Cup hopes alive

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Pakistan’s Babar Azam hits a four against New Zealand on his way to 101. (Reuters)
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New Zealand’s Jimmy Neesham hit a career-best 97 not out against Pakistan. (Reuters)
Updated 26 June 2019
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Babar Azam stars as Pakistan beat New Zealand to keep World Cup hopes alive

  • New Zealand scored 237 for six in their 50 overs but that total proved inadequate as Babar Azam scored an impressive unbeaten 101
  • During the course of his innings, Babar became the second-fastest to reach 3,000 one-day international runs in front of thousands of fanatical Pakistan fans

BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan kept alive their chances of reaching the World Cup semifinals on Wednesday, cruising to a six-wicket win against previously unbeaten New Zealand at Edgbaston.
New Zealand scored 237 for six in their 50 overs but that total proved inadequate as Babar Azam scored an impressive unbeaten 101 and Haris Sohail (68) offered valuable support.
Pakistan reached their target off the first ball of their final over, finishing on 241-4.
“The wicket was difficult but my aim was to bat for 50 overs and if I did I knew Pakistan would win the match,” said man-of-the-match Babar.
“We know we’d need to score runs off the pace bowlers. Once (Mitchell) Santner came on it was doing stuff off the pitch so (Mohammad) Hafeez told me to stick at it and score three or four runs an over.”
Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side, who beat South Africa on Sunday to revive their flagging World Cup campaign, now have seven points, level with fifth-placed Bangladesh and just one point behind hosts England.
During the course of his innings, Babar became the second-fastest to reach 3,000 one-day international runs in front of thousands of fanatical Pakistan fans.
Babar, 24, took 11 innings more than South Africa’s Hashim Amla, who reached the milestone in 57 innings, but overtook West Indies great Viv Richards (69 innings).
He reached his hundred off 124 balls with 11 fours.
Earlier, Jimmy Neesham hit a career-best 97 not out while Colin de Grandhomme made 64 after New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat.
Left-arm seamer Shaheen Shah Afridi (3-28) starred as Pakistan reduced New Zealand to 83-5, with in-form captain Kane Williamson dismissed by leg-spinner Shadab Khan for 41.
New Zealand are second in the table on 11 points behind Australia, the only team who have qualified so far.
The top four teams qualify for the semifinals.


‘If home crowds can’t help you, nothing can’, says golf star Rory McIlroy

Updated 17 July 2019
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‘If home crowds can’t help you, nothing can’, says golf star Rory McIlroy

  • The world number three is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday
  • British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951

PORTRUSH, United Kingdom: Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday that he is not feeling extra pressure this week as the British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, and is hoping home fans can help him end a five-year major drought.
The world number three is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday, despite not having claimed a major title since the 2014 PGA Championship.
He said in the past he struggled being the focus of attention at Irish Opens, although he did win that tournament in 2016.
“I think it’s probably easier this week because it’s such a big tournament,” said McIlroy, who opens his title tilt at Royal Portrush at 0909 GMT on Thursday alongside US Open winner Gary Woodland and England’s Paul Casey.
“You’ve got the best players in the world here, and I don’t feel like I’m the center of attention.
“I’m here to enjoy myself. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 68 years for the tournament to come back here. But at the same time, I mightn’t get an opportunity to play an Open Championship here again.
“I’m really just treating it as a wonderful experience and one that I really want to enjoy.
“I’m going to love being out there and having the crowds and having the support. If that can’t help you, then nothing can.”
McIlroy fired a course-record 61 on the Dunluce Links at the age of just 16 in 2005, and is one of three Northern Irish major champions in the field along with Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
He said his first memories of Portrush came as a child when watching his father play.
“I remember chipping around the chipping green, being seven or eight years of age, my dad out playing on the Dunluce,” added McIlroy, who played a practice round on Tuesday.
“Portrush ... At least the golf club, has been a big part of my upbringing. It’s sort of surreal that it’s here.
“Even driving in yesterday, when you’re coming in on the road and you look to the right and you’ve got the second tee... I don’t know who was teeing off, maybe (American player) Tony Finau and someone else, (it was) sort of strange to see them here.
“But it’s really cool.”
Since McIlroy’s record the course has been renovated, with the seventh and eighth new holes.
But the 30-year-old said he did not have to spend too much time preparing on the course, such is his familiarity with it.
“I had dinner booked with a parent on Saturday night at 8:00, thinking I’m going to have to spend some time around the greens and just prepare.
“And I got on the road back home and rang them and said, ‘Can we move dinner up?’ Because I finished early. There’s no difference. It’s the same golf course.”
McIlroy has been in strong form this year, winning twice, including the Players’ Championship, and posting 11 top-10 finishes.
He also finished in a tie for second at the Open at Carnoustie last year.
“I think it’s probably the most consistent period of golf I’ve ever played,” the 2014 champion said.