Lahore: Despite Iftikhar’s best efforts, the Kiwis clinched victory off the last ball.—Murtaza Ali / White Star
Lahore: Despite Iftikhar’s best efforts, the Kiwis clinched victory off the last ball.—Murtaza Ali / White Star

LAHORE: In a game they needed to win in order to keep the series alive, things finally fell in place for New Zealand on Monday night —by the barest of margins though. Pakistan’s Iftikhar Ahmed seemed to have snatched it away from New Zealand with a stunning late blitz but they kept their heads for a thrilling five-run victory in the third T20 International at the Gaddafi Stadium.

Skipper Tom Latham’s 64 off 49 balls had allowed the tourists to post 163-5 after electing to bat and as they returned to defend their total, New Zealand got the prized wicket of Pakistan’s batting mainstay Babar Azam early on and then ran out Mohammad Rizwan.

Their formidable opening duo back in the pavilion, Pakistan’s top-order wilted. Having won the opening two games of the five-game series batting first, they seemed they weren’t up for to the chase.

New Zealand kept picking wickets at regular intervals, reducing Pakistan to 88-7 only for Iftikhar to smash 60 off 24 balls, forging a 61-run partnership with Faheem Ashraf (27) and forcing a grandstand finish.

Faheem fell after hitting two sixes and as many fours in the penultimate over but Pakistan were still well-placed with Iftikhar at the crease. But Iftikhar, who slammed six sixes and three fours, was caught on the fourth ball of the final over and Pakistan were dismissed for 159 with James Neesham (3-38) claiming the last two wickets to fall.

Scoreboard

NEW ZEALAND:
T. Latham c Rizwan b Haris 64
C. Bowes b Shaheen 7
W. Young c Fakhar b Shadab 17
D. Mitchell c Fakhar b Shaheen 33
M. Chapman not out 16
J. Neesham c Shadab b Haris 10
R. Ravindra not out 8

EXTRAS (B-1, W-7) 8
TOTAL (for five wkts, 20 overs) 163
DID NOT BAT: A. Milne, M. Henry, I. Sodhi, B. Lister.
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-20 (Bowes), 2-56 (Young), 3-121 (Mitchell), 4-128 (Latham), 5-149 (Neesham).
BOWLING: Shaheen 4-0-33-2 (1w), Naseem 4-0-30-0, Faheem 2-0-12-0, Haris 4-0-31-2 (2w), Shadab 4-0-34-1, Imad 2-0-22-0.

PAKISTAN:
Mohammad Rizwan run out (Bowes) 6
Babar Azam c Ravindra b Milne 1
Fakhar Zaman st Latham b Ravindra 17
Saim Ayub c Latham b Neesham 10
Shadab Khan c Chapman b Milne 16
Imad Wasim c Neesham b Ravindra 3
Shaheen Shah Afridi lbw Sodhi 6
Iftikhar Ahmed c Mitchell b Neesham 60
Faheem Ashraf c Mitchell b Henry 27
Naseem Shah not out 0
Haris Rauf c Bowes b Neesham 0

EXTRAS (LB-7, NB-1, W-5) 13
TOTAL (all out, 20 overs) 159
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-6 (Babar), 2-17 (Rizwan), 3-39 (Saim), 4-45 (Fakhar), 5-55 (Imad), 6-64 (Shaheen), 7-88 (Shadab), 8-149 (Faheem), 9-159 (Iftikhar).
BOWLING: Henry 4-0-27-1 (2w), Milne 4-0-37-2 (1nb), Lister 2-0-11-0 (1w), Sodhi 3-0-11-1, Neesham 4-0-38-3 (2w), Ravindra 3-0-28-2.

RESULT: New Zealand won by five runs.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2023

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