Malik-Asif's 48 off 23 balls for sixth wicket and Harish Rauf's career-best 4/22 help Pakistan move to top spot in points table.
New Zealand 134 for 8 in 20 overs (Mitchell 27, Williamson 25; Rauf 4/22) lost to Pakistan 135 for 5 in 18.4 overs (Rizwan 33, Asif Ali 27*; Ish Sodhi 2/28) by 5 wickets
The stage was all set to be rocked in the 19th match of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021 at the Sharjah Cricket Ground on Tuesday. The clash was set to offer nothing short of top-class cricket between two of the most in-form teams this time around. Pakistan, riding high on confidence after registering a historic win over arch-rivals India in their last game, chose the same playing XI in order to replicate the last victory. They were on a 12-match winning streak in the UAE and that automatically made them a contender to win the match. With fortune smiling on Pakistan, New Zealand got the shorter end of the stick as they were sent to set the bat first by the Babar Azam-led outfit.
New Zealand failed to capitalize on good start
Put in to bat first, New Zealand had a slow start to their innings. Openers Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell faced the in-form Shaheen Shah Afridi who delivered a maiden over to start proceedings.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam resorted to the very same strategy he went about during the clash with India. He brought in left-arm orthodox bowler Imad Wasim in the 2nd over wherein he conceded one boundary. NZ openers subsequently managed to hit a few boundaries including a six on the last ball of the 4th over.
As the Blackcaps switched gears, Pakistan got its first wicket when right-arm pacer Haris Rauf dismissed Martin Guptill for 17 runs. However, Mitchell looked undeterred in his approach as he went for regular boundaries and even sixes down the ground. He took the scoreboard to 50+ runs along with skipper Kane Williamson after Guptill’s dismissal.
Unfortunately, Mitchell was dismissed by Imad Wasim in the 9th over, trying to clear the rope and ended up getting caught by Fakhar Zaman at long-on. Mitchell scored 27 runs off 20 deliveries at a strike-rate of 135.
NZ also lost another wicket, this time in the form of James Neesham who was promoted up the order. He was caught at deep mid-wicket by Fakhar Zaman off Mohammad Hafeez’s delivery in an attempt to clear the ball for a boundary. Bad luck seemed to have more leverage over NZ as the side suffered another blow with Kane Williamson’s dismissal in a run out. He was well set on the crease, however, was knocked out through a brilliant run out effected by Hasan Ali in trying to get a cheeky single. The Blackcaps skipper was dismissed for 25 runs and NZ were reeling at 90/4 after 13.1 overs.
Haris Rauf picks his career-best figures of 4/22
It was as if Pakistan bowlers had made up their mind that if one of them does not get wickets, another one shall get the job done and that looked pretty evident during NZ’s innings. In the last game against India, Shaheen Afridi took three wickets, but in this one, Haris Rauf shone with a dazzling 4/22 in his spell. He started off by dismissing Guptill, and followed it up by taking down Blackcaps’ middle order.
Rauf came back to bowl in the 15th over when Devon Conway and Tim Seifert were in the middle. The duo was looking to build a good partnership and put a competitive total on the board. However, Rauf struck by first trapping Conway for 27 runs and also broke their 36-run partnership. He followed up with two more wickets in his subsequent deliveries and helped his side restrict New Zealand to 134/8 in 20 overs.
Pakistan lose Babar Azam early on
Chasing a modest total of 135 runs, Pakistan lost their skipper Babar Azam (9) early on in the game. He was dismissed by Tim Southee who also celebrated his 100th wicket in the T20Is with that scalp.
On the other end, opener Mohammad Rizwan’s batting seemed unhampered despite the skipper’s dismissal. Rizwan smacked 33 runs off 34 deliveries and carted five boundaries before getting dismissed by Ish Sodhi leg before in the 9th over.
The middle-order comprising of Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez barely had much to offer as they got dismissed by Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner for 11 runs each. After their dismissal, Pakistan was reeling at 69/4 with Shoaib Malik and Imad Wasim in the middle. They needed 65 runs off 50 balls with five wickets in hand. They lost yet another wicket in the 15th over, that of Imad Wasim who got out LBW in trying to connect a failed switch-hit shot which also incurred him an injury.
Asif Ali and Shoaib Malik swoop away victory
However, with the most-experienced batter Shoaib Malik still in the middle and new batter Asif Ali joining him for the final overs, the game was still on for Pakistan.
Asif Ali smacked two back-to-back sixes off Tim Southee when Pakistan needed 36 runs off 24 balls. He weighed the game in Pakistan’s favour as they needed 24 runs off 21 balls after the double whammy.
The latter part of the chase was taken over by Shoaib Malik as the 39-year-old carted a four and a six of Santner’s over and took the side closer towards snapping another win. Pakistan eventually won their second match of the tournament by 5 wickets and also took pole position in Group 2 with 4 points and a +0.738 Net Run Rate.
It was as if the Pakistan cricket team had worked up on all the minutiae of the plan of action of victory and were just ready to execute it on the field in their quest to annihilate the Kiwis. From quickfire wicket-hunting to a ferocious chase, every action was performed with the only aim of bagging their second win to take themselves closer to the knock-out rounds.
Player of the Match
Haris Rauf was adjudged player of the match for his impeccable spell of 4/22 that helped Pakistan restrict New Zealand for 134 runs in 20 overs. He later acknowledged that his first wicket, that of Martin Guptill, was the best one among all his four wickets.
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