Fast bowler Haris Rauf took a career best 4-22 to help Pakistan beat New Zealand by five wickets in a low-scoring thriller and record their second successive win in the Twenty20 World Cup at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
The Green Shirts chased down the target of 135 runs in the 19th over with Rauf being declared Man of the Match.
Last month, the New Zealand Cricket Team abandoned its tour of Pakistan, citing “security alerts” minutes before the first one-day international in Rawalpindi. The cancellation of the tour left cricket fans fuming as Kiwis had arrived to play in Pakistan after 18 years.
But the Men in Green overpowered Kiwis in an away match to calm the anger at home sparked by the abrupt cancellation of the tour. Boosted by their brilliant performance in the 10-wicket rout of arch-rivals India on Sunday, Pakistan opted to bowl first after winning the toss on a comparatively slow pitch. They restricted Kiwis to 134 for 8 thanks to a match-winning performance by Rauf. The pitch kept a bit low, and the ball was gripping in the surface, so it was never an easy task for the kiwis to start with.
Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell were joint top-scorers with 27 each while skipper Kane Williamson made a laborious 26-ball 25.
New Zealand reached 36 without loss when Rauf bowled Martin Guptill off his pads for 17. He also accounted for Conway and Glenn Phillips (13) in one over as New Zealand failed to lift the tempo at any stage. Rauf also dismissed Santner (6) with the last ball of the final over. Shaheen finished with 1-21 while spinners Hafeez and Imad also took a wicket each.
But it was not an easy chase for the Green Shirts as wickets kept tumbling. Babar Azam was the first casualty after fast bowler Tim Southee hit the middle stump to send the skipper back to the pavilion in the sixth over.
Fakhar Zaman came in but he was not able to cause any damage to the opposition and went back after hitting a monstrous six. At one point in the run chase, Pakistan were 87-5 in the 15th over and the game was slipping away from the clutches of the Men in Green. This is when Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali came together to form an unbeaten 48-run partnership in a clutch situation.
Asif’s contribution, in particular, was massive as his back-to-back sixes in the 17th over brought Pakistan back in the game and justified his place in the side.
Congratulations and praises began pouring in on Twitter for the Pakistani team soon after the match ended. In a tweet, President Dr Arif Alvi said, “Outstanding my dear Green Shirts. You continue with your winning spree and took your disappointment of NZ-cancelled tour on the ground. Excellent performance by Haris Rauf with the ball & then Asif Ali with the bat at the end who made sure of our win.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated the Pakistan cricket team on its emphatic win over New Zealand. “Congratulations Team Pakistan. Bowling again was outstanding. A good team will analyse its mistakes when it loses. A great team does a thorough analysis of its game even when it wins,” he wrote on Twitter.
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib also congratulated the Pakistan team on its victory. With back-to-back wins, Pakistan has gone top of their group with four points. Afghanistan is in second place with two points on the board. Pakistan next play Afghanistan in Dubai on Friday while New Zealand face India, also in Dubai, on Sunday.