Pakistan back as top T20 nation after series win

Captain Sarfraz lauds team’s character for bouncing back

19:28 January 28, 2018

Mount Maunganui, New Zealand: Pakistan reclaimed the No. 1 ranking in world Twenty20 cricket when they beat New Zealand by 18 runs in the third international on Sunday to win the three-match series 2-1.

After losing the first match of the series by seven wickets, Pakistan won the second by 48 runs and continued that form on Sunday when they scored 181-6 and held New Zealand to 163-6.

New Zealand won 13 straight matches across all formats to begin their domestic summer, beating the West Indies in two Tests, two one-dayers and three Twenty20 internationals, then sweeping Pakistan 5-0 in a one-day series and winning the first match of the T20 series.

But Pakistan turned the tables in the last two matches of the Twenty20 series, convincingly beating New Zealand twice to cause them to reconsider their tactics and selection ahead of an upcoming T20 tri-series against Australia and England.

For the second match in a row, Pakistan asserted themselves by winning the toss and batting. Fakhar Zaman provided the anchor by scoring 46 at the top of the innings, then a steady flow of moderate contributions carried the tourists to a competitive total.

Ahmad Shehzad made 19, Babar Azam 19 and captain Sarfraz Ahmad 29, all in significant partnerships with Fakhar. Pakistan put on 30 for the first wicket, 36 for the second and 40 for the third to lay the foundation for a sound batting performance in good conditions.

The tourists then scored 110 from the last 10 overs of their innings to make their total formidable and New Zealand couldn’t match that productivity against the bowling of leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who was man of the match for his figures of 2-19 from four overs and Mohammad Amir, who took 1-23 from four overs and was man of the series.

Martin Guptill scored 59 from 43 balls at the top of the order but was unable to build the significant partnerships New Zealand needed to chase down the Pakistan total.

New Zealand were only 87-3 when he was out in the 13th over and they struggled to accelerate against tight Pakistan bowling through the middle of the innings.

Ross Taylor raised New Zealand hopes when he hit three sixes in a cameo innings of 25 from 11 balls, which carried New Zealand to 128-4 with almost four overs remaining. But Pakistan clamped down again and New Zealand came to the last over needing 35 runs to win.

“Credit goes to my boys, the way we came back after losing six matches in a row was amazing,” Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmad said. “I think we just said to the guys after the one-day series and the first match of the Twenty20 series to just play your own game.

“There were team plans but it also came down to the performances of the batsmen like Fakhar Zaman and Ahmed Shehzad and all the bowlers. That’s why we reached 180 and the way we bowled was excellent today.”

New Zealand struggled again in a demanding run chase. It was weakened by the loss of opener Colin Munro, the world’s top-ranked T20 batsman, to a hamstring injury and captain Kane Williamson, opening the innings in his place, managed only 9 from 14 balls.

Guptill tried to bat deep in the innings and hit two fours and four sixes but lacked the support he needed as Anaru Kitchen, Tom Bruce and Colin de Grandhomme were all out relatively cheaply. Mitchell Santner was left 34 not out off 12 balls and Tom Blundell 3 not out.

“We weren’t quite at our best and it was the pressure Pakistan put us under,” Williamson said. “The way they came out and bowled and the discipline they showed was the difference and for us T20 is such a fine line, we know that, and it was close-ish today. There are a couple of things we would have liked to do better and the result may have changed.”