Pakistan made it two wins in a row and have had a dream start to this ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021. After beating India in their opening encounter, the Babar Azam-led side defeated New Zealand by five wickets, this time bringing out a side of them not many are too familiar with.
The bowlers set up the game for Pakistan in the first innings as the New Zealand batters just couldn’t get any momentum throughout their batting innings. Pakistan did suffer a few jitters during their run-chase, but, importantly the middle-order stepped up and Asif Ali and Shoaib Malik took the team over the line with more than an over to spare.
Earlier, Babar Azam won his second toss in a row and had no hesitation in fielding first. The Pakistan bowlers were once again spot on in the powerplay. Even though, they didn’t get a wicket upfront, Pakistan didn’t allow New Zealand to run away with the game.
Shaheen Afridi and Imad Wasim combined to conceded only 21 runs in the first four overs. Hasan Ali bowled the fifth over which went for 15 but Haris Rauf broke the opening stand in the final over of the powerplay. He knocked over Martin Guptill to leave New Zealand on 42/1 at the end of the powerplay.
Daryl Mitchell was looking in good touch but he fell to Imad Wasim in the ninth over before James Neesham, who was promoted to No. 4 to maintain the left-right combination, was dismissed by Mohammad Hafeez. Kane Williamson and Devon Conway tried to resurrect the innings but the Kiwis kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Williamson was runout in the 14th over.
Conway and Glenn Phillips looked set to launch in the last three overs before Rauf came back and dismissed both batters in the space of three deliveries to halt New Zealand’s charge at the death. New Zealand could score just 18 runs in the final three overs as they ended up with 134/8.
In reply, Pakistan had a sedate start to their run-chase. Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam added 28 runs in five overs before Tim Southee knocked over Azam with a slower delivery. Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez couldn’t get going either while Rizwan failed to convert his start. The latter was the one doing most of the scoring as he got to 33.
Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner combined to strangle Pakistan in the middle overs. The New Zealand spin duo kept a check on the scoring rate and also kept chipping away with wickets. Sodhi accounted for Zaman and Rizwan while Santner got the wicket of Hafeez as Pakistan slipped to 69/4. Imad Wasim was the next to go in the 15th over and when he was dismissed, Pakistan still needed 48 off 31 balls.
But the arrival of Asif Ali changed the complexion of the game entirely. Alongside the experienced Shoaib Malik, he took Pakistan home with eight ball to spare. Ali smashed his first ball for a four before smacking consecutive sixes off Southee in the 17th over to ease the nerves in the Pakistan camp. Malik then struck a four and a six in the 18th over to kill the run-chase and Ali finished things off with a six in the 19th over.
Ali remained unbeaten on 27 off just 12 balls (one four and three sixes) while Malik finished with 26 not out which came off 20 deliveries (two fours and a six). This five-wicket win solidifies Pakistan’s position at the top of the points table, and also makes them a dangerous team for the knockouts, for which their place seems almost certain.
FINAL SCORE:New Zealand 134/8 in 20 overs (Daryl Mitchell 27, Devon Conway 27, Kane Williamson 25, Haris Rauf 4/22, Shaheen Afridi 1/24) lost to Pakistan 135/5 in 18.4 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 33, Asif Ali 27*, Shoaib Malik 26*, Ish Sodhi 2/28, Tim South