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Pakistan wins Cricket World Cup toss

BENGALURU, India (AP) – Pakistan cricket captain Babar Azam won the toss and elected to field under overcast conditions against New Zealand as both teams battle for a semifinal spot at the Cricket World Cup on Saturday.

Kane Williamson returns from thumb injury to lead the side as New Zealand desperately look for a turnaround of form after being beaten in its last three games. The Black Caps have eight points from seven games.

Williamson replaced Will Young at the top-order as injury-hit New Zealand made three changes from its heavy loss against South Africa in its last outing.

New Zealand brought in legspinner Ish Sodhi for his first game of the tournament in place of Matt Henry, who has been ruled out of the remaining games after picking up a hamstring injury in the last match.

James Neesham also injured his hand during the game against the Proteas, with Mark Champan coming in.

Pakistan strengthened its fast bowling stocks by including Hasan Ali as the fourth pacer in place of struggling legspinner Usama Mir.

Pakistan has gone into the game without a specialist spinner with Iftikhar Ahmed and Salman Ali Agha the two part-time spin options.

New Zealand’s opening nine-wicket win against defending champion England was followed by three relatively easy victories over the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before it crashed to three successive losses.

It fell short by just five runs against Australia in a high-scoring game, but received a 190-run pounding against South Africa that has dented its net run-rate too.

Pakistan not only needs to win its remaining two games, but its progress to the semifinals depends on the results of other games. Pakistan finally gelled against Bangladesh in the last game after it suffered four consecutive losses against India, Australia, Afghanistan and a nail-biting one-wicket defeat against South Africa.

Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi, with 16 wickets, is the joint second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament and a lot will depend on the leftarm fast bowler’s ability to pick up early wickets against the Black Caps.

New Zealand’s captain Kane Williamson and Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam wait for the coin toss before the start of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and Pakistan in Bengaluru, India on Saturday. PHOTO: AP