On a day when everything fell into place for Pakistan, they swept through New Zealand to claim a six-wicket victory. A day after Bangladesh were overlooked, another near-perfect bowling performance against a rusty, stilted New Zealand batting team saw the hosts limited to 147 with Haris Rauf once again the star. In response, Babar Azam led Pakistan’s pursuit with an effortless and unbeaten 79 from 53 balls. Quick cameos from Shdab Khan and Haider Ali helped Pakistan seal victory with 10 balls to spare.
New Zealand struggled to get off to an early start, with Devon Conway and Kane Williamson struggling to speak fluently during their 61-run 52-ball partnership. The playmakers cramped New Zealand during pitch restrictions, while Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz kept things tight down the middle. A set-piece, in which Mark Chapman hammered Nawaz for 22, threatened to see New Zealand claw back ground they had lost, only for the visitors to fight back and make sure there was no would have more change of momentum. The last three overs saw 17 runs scored with five wickets lost, a stage at which New Zealand limped.
Mohammad Rizwan failed to regain the fluidity that has characterized his game for the past two years and was trapped in front by Tim Southee, before Blair Tickner fired Shan Masood for a duck. Shadab was the wrecking ball through the middle order, complementing his captain particularly well in a fluid and destructive partnership that also delivered 61 – despite taking just 42 balls to get there. By then, the required rate was effectively around a run-a-ball, where it remained for the next few overs. Haider Ali and Babar crushed Tickner for 21 points in the 18th and sealed a second straight victory.
The clamor for Shadab to beat higher in order has taken up much of Pakistan’s social media real estate, and his immediate vindication during his deployment could potentially have ramifications for Pakistan over the next five weeks. It was in the top four that Shadab posted the highest average and strike rate for Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League, and Pakistan’s tendency to slow down in post-powerplay overs had led to calls for promote Shadab reaching a crescendo.
On Saturday, Shadab showed why. Everything seemed to fall into place after Rizwan and Masood fell near the end of the power play. It prompted the all-rounder’s first-ever promotion to No.4 with Pakistan, and absent the high pace of Lockie Ferguson and Adam Milne, it was a very fruitful game. Tickner was hit by the first ball he faced, before Ish Sodhi’s first ball was hammered over the cow corner and out of the stadium.
In just six balls, Sodhi played Shadab, Shadab would loot 19. In all, Shadab scored 34 of 22 balls to relieve any pressure in a fairly small chase, allowing his teammates to cruise at a much calmer pace. The option he gives Pakistan would seem to add another dimension to their hitter, although how often they see fit to use it is a wide open question.
Williamson and Conway wrestle
Conway is New Zealand’s highest rated hitter and Williamson perhaps the most reliable, but in their first home game of the season the two looked discolored. Williamson acknowledged that his team’s performance had been “missed”, and the 61-point second-wicket position between the two is an example of this. Pakistan in full form with the ball is not an ideal opponent for your first home game of the season, and maybe it has shown.
Conway managed to find the odd four or six, but the point balls sandwiched between those boundaries only added pressure. It was perhaps telling that it was only after their fall that New Zealand enjoyed their best stint with the bat, thanks to Chapman briefly raising hopes for New Zealand to display a total over 160. This contrasted sharply with the Babar-Shadab stand, which also saw 61 runs scored. But the ten fewer bullets it took made all the difference – that was exactly the number of deliveries Pakistan had to spare when the target was being chased.
A complete bowling performance
In reality, this game was about Pakistan with the ball. The old adage that bowlers win tournaments bodes well for Pakistan in this tri-series as two superb bowling performances see them well seated at the top of the table. Rauf, Shahnawaz Dahani and Mohammad Wasim each kept the hosts on leash during the power play, and backed up by the spinners later, there was no weak link to chase.
Aside from those 22 runs, not once have New Zealand scored 12 or more runs in any over, making it hard to make up what the normal scoreline might have been. Rauf, Dahani, Wasim and Shadab’s combined 15 overs cost just 91, while even the one on Iftikhar cost Pakistan just five. There was simply no place to hide. (cricinfo)
New Zealand 147 for 8 weeks in 20 Overs (Devon Conway 36; Haris Rauf 3-28, Mohammad Wasim 2-20, Mohammad Nawaz 2-44)
Pakistan 149 for 4 weeks in 18.2 Overs (Babar Azam 79 no, Shadab Khan 34; Blair Tickner 2-42)