Pakistan 149 for 4 (Babar 79*, Shadab 34, Tickner 2-42) beat New Zealand 147 for 8 (Conway 36, Rauf 3-28, Wasim 2-20, Nawaz 2-44) by six wickets
Mohammad Rizwan couldn’t find the fluency that has been characteristic of his game for the past two years and was trapped in front by Tim Southee, before Blair Tickner sent Shan Masood back for a duck. Shadab was the wrecking ball through the middle order, complementing his captain especially well in a fluent, destructive partnership that also yielded 61 – though they took just 42 balls to get there. By then the required rate was effectively around a run-a-ball, where it stayed for the next few overs. Haider Ali and Babar smashed Tickner for 21 in the 18th over, and sealed a second successive win.
The clamour to have Shadab bat higher up the order has occupied much social-media real estate in Pakistan, and its immediate vindication upon its deployment could potentially have ramifications for Pakistan through the next five weeks. It is in the top four that Shadab has boasted the highest average and strike rate for Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League, and Pakistan’s tendency to slow down in the post-powerplay overs had led to baying calls to promote Shadab reaching a crescendo.
In just six balls Sodhi bowled to Shadab, Shadab would plunder 19. In all, Shadab scored 34 off 22 balls to easy any pressure in a fairly small chase, allowing his team-mates to cruise along at a much more sedate pace. The option he gives Pakistan would appear to add another dimension to their batting, though how frequently they deem fit to ustilise it is very much an open question.
Conway is New Zealand’s highest-ranked batter, and Williamson perhaps the most reliable, but in their first home game of the season, both looked off-colour. Williamson acknowledged his side’s performance had been “scrappy”, and the 61-run second-wicket stand between the two exemplified that. Pakistan in top form with the ball aren’t an ideal opponent for your first home game of the season, and perhaps that showed.
Conway was able to find the odd four or six, but the dot balls interspersed between those boundaries only continued to add the pressure. It was perhaps telling that only after they fell did New Zealand enjoy their best passage of play with the bat, thanks to Chapman who briefly raised hopes of New Zealand posting a total in excess of 160.
It contrasted heavily with the Babar-Shadab stand, which also saw 61 runs scored. But the ten fewer balls it took made all the difference – that was exactly the number of deliveries Pakistan had to spare when the target was chased down.
An all-round bowling performance
Really, though, this game was about Pakistan with the ball. The old adage around bowlers winning tournaments bodes particularly well for Pakistan in this tri-series as two superb bowling performances see them sitting pretty at the top of the table. Rauf, Shahnawaz Dahani and Mohammad Wasim each kept the hosts on a leash during the powerplay, and backed up by the spinners later on, there wasn’t a weak link to go after.
Aside from that 22-run over, not once did New Zealand score 12 runs or more in any over, making it difficult to catch up to what the par score might have been. Rauf, Dahani, Wasim and Shadab’s 15 combined overs went for just 91, while even the one over Iftikhar bowled cost Pakistan only five. There was simply no place to hide.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000