Pakistan held their nerve in the first Twenty20 International to beat New Zealand by two runs. (Image credit: Twitter)
Pakistan’s winning momentum in Twenty20 Internationals continued as Shaheen Afridi defended 17 runs off the last over to help his side beat New Zealand by two runs in a thrilling Twenty20 International at the Sheikh Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Chasing 149 after Pakistan had chosen to bat, New Zealand got off to a great start with Colin Munro getting off to a great start. Munro was given solid assistance by Glenn Phillips and the duo shared a 50-run opening stand. Munro blasted a fifty and his knock was studded with six fours and three sixes but his dismissal in the 12th over by legspinner Shadab Khan stalled the team’s momentum.
New Zealand struggled to hit boundaries in the next seven overs and the asking rate mounted. However, Ross Taylor kept the visitors in the hunt with some good blows and the equation boiled down to 17 runs in the last over.
Tim Southee struck a boundary off the second ball but New Zealand needed nine off two balls. A couple of Taylor on the fifth ball meant New Zealand needed a six off the last ball to tie the game but the batsman could only hit a boundary to long off as Pakistan secured their fourth consecutive win, following a 3-0 whitewash over Australia.
Mohammad Hafeez the glue
Earlier, Pakistan managed to reach 148/6 on a sluggish Abu Dhabi wicket and against a disciplined bowling attack. Babar Azam, who had hit three fifties against Australia, was dismissed cheaply by Adam Milne for 7. However, Mohammad Hafeez, who has enjoyed a resurgence in his career, held the innings together and stitched a 67-run stand for the third wicket with skipper Sarfraz Ahmed.
After Hafeez was dismissed by Milne for 45, Sarfraz hung on till the end and aided by some good blows towards the end from Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim, Pakistan reached a defendable total. Hafeez won the Man of the Match award and heaped praise on the bowlers. “Felt we were 10-15 runs short but the way we restricted them was brilliant,” Hafeez said,
Kane Williamson, the New Zealand skipper, rued the key moments when the match slipped from their grasp. “As you get into the middle phases, spin can be challenging. Sometimes have to suck up those dot balls and capitalize in other overs. It's about being smart about it,” Williamson said.
Pakistan’s next game against New Zealand will be on November 2 at the Dubai International stadium.