Pakistan 291 for 5 wickets (Fakhar 117, Imam 60, Babar 49, Rizwan 42*, Milne 2-60) defeated new zealand 288 for 7 (Mitchell 113, Young 86, Naseem 2-29) by five wickets
This chase was a realization of the template that Pakistan has followed in their best days in this format over the last four years. Most of the run-scoring was done by Fakhar, Imam and Babar; After all, there’s a reason no other team is as dependent on its top three players for runs as Pakistan is. While New Zealand’s openers made a slow start, Pakistan made a fast start on a surface that posed no threat to the batsmen.
Adam Milne and Matt Henry were occasionally singled out for boundaries, but after the 100-run stand in the 19th over, they showed more pronounced indifference. Fakhar hit a six over Mitchell’s head while Imam did the same to Ish Sodhi soon after. Both players had scored half-centuries by now and Pakistan appeared to be on track.
Sodhi got some grip on the next ball and trapped Imam in front, but this time it paved the way for another long partnership between Babar and Fakhar. It seemed as if both of them would take the game till the end. The Pakistani captain was looking home from the very first ball, while Fakhar was steadily moving towards another ODI century. When he got there with a drive through extra cover he punched the air earlier than customary prostration,
But one run away from 50, a loose shot from Babar brought Shan Masood to the crease. After a brief struggle he was soon back, bowling the 12th ball over extra cover and adding only one run as New Zealand once again got the shortest start.
But Rizwan closed it out with confidence as he hit back and tried to take the game out of danger. They did this with considerable success, and even when Fakhar fell for 117 at the other end, they ensured there was no reason for the home side to falter. A smash to midwicket in the final over sealed the deal, giving Pakistan the win they were hoping for at good value for most of the game.
Earlier, Pakistan had opted to invite New Zealand to bat on a hot day and flat track. The bowlers began to restrict the openers, especially Naseem, who got an extra yard of sideways movement and pace, conceding only 12 runs in his six-over spell. However, it was the change in bowling that brought the wickets, with Haris Rauf pulling an outside edge from Chad Bowes in his first over, limiting the powerplay to the bowlers.
But as the field expanded, New Zealand’s innings began to progress. Young began to find his feet, especially against spin. After an innings of 50 runs in 51 balls, he hit Shadab for four and Agha Salman for a six on the first ball. As Pakistan continued to keep the spin away with little impact, Mitchell soon began to play a useful support role. Young looked to be on his way to a century as the partnership crossed the three-mark and New Zealand reached 150 for one in 26 overs.
But Shadab struck out Young in an attempt to hit another boundary, and although Mitchell was becoming more comfortable, New Zealand could never assert themselves in the same way again. Tom Latham’s struggles at the crease – he managed 20 off 36, but his pace was slowed by falling LBW to a juicy full toss. Mitchell hit two fours on Shadab and another four and a six on Nawaz, but he was getting little support.
There were only three fours in the last 25 overs of the innings that Mitchell did not hit, and once Mark Chapman was clean bowled by Rauf, the innings never really took off. Mitchell brought up a fine century with a brilliant straight drive off Shaheen Afridi, but with Naseem performing poorly at the other end, New Zealand’s run-scoring was becoming more and more tenuous.
Naseem would get the reward he deserved in the wickets column at the death, dismissing Rachin Ravindra and Adam Milne on the last two balls of the innings, ensuring New Zealand fell well short of 300. As it happened, they too fell. It is quite good to challenge Pakistan’s batsmen on such a surface.
Daniel Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danny61000