DUBAI : Pakistan left it late to secure a five-wicket victory over New Zealand to continue their unbeaten start in Group 2 of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.
New Zealand were restricted by both spin and seam, with pace bowler Haris Rauf taking four for 22 as the Blackcaps made 134 for eight from their 20 overs.
Pakistan got off to a slow start in reply making 55 off their first 10 overs before Shoaib Malik, 26 not out off 20, and Asif Ali, 27 not out from 12 balls, powered them to victory.
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Shaheen Shah Afridi started tamely for his standards, having taken one for two in his first over against India, bowling a wicket-less maiden over after Pakistan won the toss and chose to field.
With New Zealand making good progress at 36 for no loss after five overs, captain Babar Azam brought on death-overs specialist Rauf, with the bowler making an instant impact.
The first ball was right at Martin Guptill’s feet, and the second delivery he could do nothing about as it clattered off his thigh pad and into the stumps, as Guptill was forced to limp off having made 17 from 20.
Not having had the chance to bat against India, Fakhar Zaman was in the game taking two catches to dismiss Daryl Mitchell and Jimmy Neesham.
With New Zealand going at a run a ball, Kane Williamson was then given out lbw but a reprieve on review gave him a new lease of life as he scored three fours in a row to push New Zealand up to 90 for 3.
That would be his last contribution as he was run out for 25 off 26 balls, and with Williamson gone, New Zealand reverted back to their run-a-ball approach with Glenn Phillips and Devon Conway trading singles.
The pair would soon be out in the space of three balls, Rauf picking them both up to leave New Zealand 116 for six.
Afridi may have begun quietly, but he ended his spell to raucous cheers, using a slower ball to deceive Tim Seifert with Rauf then picking up Mitchell Santner to leave Pakistan with a target of 135.
Captain Azam and Mohammad Rizwan were not able to repeat their unbeaten partnership against India, the pair adding 28 before Azam was bowled by Tim Southee who claimed his 100th T20I wicket.
With his partner gone, Rizwan was not at his free-flowing best and by the time Zaman was given out lbw on review, he had only made 24 off 26 balls, well below his average strike rate of 130.
Conway then took a world-class catch at full-stretch in the deep to dismiss Hafeez for 11 and Rizwan was next to go, trapped lbw by Ish Sodhi for 33 with Pakistan needing 66 from just over eight overs to win.
Pakistan were faltering before Ali crashed back-to-back maximums off Southee to put the Men in Green back on top and he knocked off the winning runs with eight balls to spare.
Scores in brief
Pakistan beat New Zealand at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah by five wickets.
New Zealand 134/8, in 20 overs (Devon Conway 27, Daryl Mitchell 27; Haris Rauf 4-22, Mohammad Hafeez 1-16)
Pakistan 135/5, in 18.4 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 33, Asif Ali 27 not out; Ish Sodhi 2-28; Tim Southee 1-25)
Player of the Match: Haris Rauf (Pakistan)