Lockie Ferguson bagged three wickets after retiring hurt Imam-ul-Haq with a bouncer that hit his helmet but at no point did Pakistan look out of control in their 210 run chase. Led by Fakhar Zaman, who returned to form with a run-a-ball 88, Pakistan overhauled the total of 209 in 40.3 overs to level the series with a 6-wicket win in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Except for late hiccups, Pakistan had little trouble in the chase. Trent Boult and Tim Southee started off with a long spell early on. Even as they didn’t do much wrong, openers Zaman and Imam weren’t troubled. In contrasting fashion, they chugged along to a 54-run opening stand before the latter was knocked hard by a Ferguson bouncer.
Zaman, however, slowed down a bit but didn’t allow New Zealand to get on top. Along with Babar Azam, he added 101 runs before the visitors began to tighten a chase that had slipped out of their hand.
The pacer’s approach was one-dimensional but effective. He used his bouncers to good effect, and prompted the Pakistani batsmen to unleash their pull shots. In the 29th over, both the set batsmen departed looking to counter his challenge and edging it to the outfielders. But even the double blow was no threat.
Malik too fell playing a fine pull shot but in a bizarre manner as his crisp stroke hit Henry Nicholls, who was stationed at forward short leg, and lobbed to Ish Sodhi off his shoulder. Pakistan slowed down considerably towards the end but it did nothing except bore the crowd out of the stadium before the formalities were completed.
The win was, however, set up by Shaheen Afridi, whose four wickets had restricted the visitors to a sub par 209 for 9 on a slow wicket after they had elected to bat. The left-arm pacer, displaying why he is rated so highly, put on an exhibition of disciplined bowling bringing to fore accuracy, variations and pace to strike four blows and effect a crucial run out.
New Zealand batting lacked a direction. Barring Ross Taylor, who yet again stood strong, the other batsmen struggled to make peace on a slow wicket. Taylor, walking out to bat in the fourth over with Colin Munro and Kane Williamson falling early – at 25 for 2, anchored the New Zealand innings with a 120-ball 86. Against a spirited fielding unit, the visitors struggled to rush in on singles and twos, while a disciplined bowling performance didn’t allow for too many boundaries either – 9 boundaries and 3 sixes. Soon enough, before a proper consolidation could have been done George Worker and Tom Latham yorked themselves to reduce the side to 73 for 4.
Taylor revived New Zealand’s innings with a steady 75-run alliance for the fifth wicket in company of Henry Nicholls. But the latter undid all the good work while impatiently looking to charge Hasan Ali in his second spell and losing his stumps. Colin de Grandhomme followed his footsteps to similar effect, holing Shadab Khan to long on.
Taylor who was left with only the tail to bat out the last 10 overs ensured that all the balls were played out. Southee, Sodhi and Ferguson added some crucial runs but Taylor didn’t get as many balls to face as he would have liked. Nonetheless, New Zealand batted out the 50 overs and reached 209/9 – a total which proved too little for the hosts in the end.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 209/9 in 50 overs (Ross Taylor 86*, Henry Nicholls 33; Shaheen Afridi 4-38, Hasan Ali 2-59) lost to Pakistan 212/4 in 40.3 overs (Fakhar Zaman 88, Babar Azam 46; Lockie Ferguson 3-60, Ish Sodhi 1-21) by 6 wickets