Pakistan extended their winning run in Twenty20 Internationals, picking up their seventh on the bounce, as they beat New Zealand by two runs in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday (October 31).
New Zealand were superb in the field and saved some crucial runs to keep the hosts to 148 for 6 but failed to capitalise on the half-century from Colin Munro and were restricted to 146 for 6 in the chase.
Pakistan continued the trend from the Australia series and had no hesitation in batting first. However, Adam Milne and Ajaz Patel dismissed the Pakistan openers with just 10 on the board. Babar Azam, the man in form, was the first one to fall – caught behind – trying to cut a wide one from Milne. Sahibzada Farhan wanted to slog everything out of the park and eventually perished trying to do that as he slog-swept the debutant to square leg. Pakistan, however, recovered on the back of a 67-run stand between Mohammad Hafeez and Asif Ali.
Hafeez contributed a handy 36-ball 45 to take the team past the 75-run mark while Ali got his eye in. Pakistan were well placed to kick on in the 12th over but Milne returned to peg the hosts back. The pacer had Hafeez caught at point – a superb catch diving to the left from Tim Southee – meant the onus fell upon Ali to take the innings forward. Ali had struck a boundary and six to show glimpses of form but Colin de Grandhomme had him caught at deep midwicket for a 21-ball 24.
Pakistan decided to keep Shoaib Malik for the death overs and Sarfraz Ahmed promoted himself to pull the team out of trouble. While the Pakistan captain did get the runs flowing, he also lost partners quickly. Malik made just 8 as the pressure on Sarfraz mounted quite swiftly. It took another moment of brilliance on the field to hurt Pakistan more as Corey Anderson pulled off a stunner at long-off to dismiss the Pakistan captain.
Pakistan huffed and puffed forward and the late surge came only in the final over of the innings. Imad Wasim picked up 10 runs to give the bowlers a fighting score after they were kept in check for most parts of the first innings.
New Zealand, in their chase, started slow but more importantly didn’t lose early wickets.
Both Wasim and Faheem Ashraf quickly realised that bullying the second-string Australia side and bowling to the explosive pair of New Zealand at the top are totally different. Both Colin Munro (58) and Glenn Phillips scored just 22 in the first four overs before the former picked up 16 from the fifth over bowled by Wasim. Then 12 came in the last over of the Powerplay but Hasan Ali managed to dismiss Phillips as the visitors were well placed to track down the target at 50 for 1 after six.
Pakistan, from there on, did well to squeeze out the runs and keep things under control with the help of their spinners. Hafeez and Shadab Khan dried out the runs as the next four overs yielded just 22. The big wicket of Munro came in the 12th over as he smoked one straight to long-on off Shadab soon after completing his half-century. With 67 needed off the last eight, Pakistan continued to tighten the noose as Wasim managed to dismiss Kane Williamson for just 11.
At 84 for 3, New Zealand were in the middle of a wobble with not much time to rebuild the innings. De Grandhomme was run out and New Zealand never really recovered from the regular strikes – conceding the series lead after a promising start.
Brief scores: Pakistan 148/6 in 20 overs (Mohammad Hafeez 45; Adam Milne 2-28) beat New Zealand 146/6 in 20 overs (Colin Munro 58; Hasan Ali 3-35) by two runs.