CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Pakistan had an unlikely hero as it bowled New Zealand out for 92 to win the fifth Twenty20 international by 42 runs Sunday and avoid a clean sweep in-the five match series.
The tourist’s total of 134-8 after choosing to bat looked inadequate as it was their lowest of the series after their losing efforts of 180, 173, 179-7 and 158-5 in the four previous matches.
But it proved more than enough on a sub-standard pitch at Hagley and New Zealand only just surpassed its previous lowest total in a T20 international in New Zealand.
Iftikhar Ahmed was the surprise hero for Pakistan. The 33-year-old hadn’t bowled in Pakistan’s last eight Twenty20s, hadn’t taken a wicket since 2022 and had only four wickets in 53 matches before Sunday.
But he thrived on a pitch which gripped and turned as he took 3-11 to play the leading role in New Zealand’s downfall. His previous best was 1-7.
Iftikhar dismissed Tim Seifert (19), Matt Henry (1), Ish Sodhi (1), took a catch to remove Will Young (12) and played a part in the run out of Mark Chapman (1).
“I just read the wicket, it was turning so I just tried to bowl wicket to wicket and that was the key to success,” Iftikhar said through captain Shaheen Afridi who interpreted.
“I was prepared for this game and I thought I might bowl today. I’ve been working very hard on my bowling and today was the result. It’s up to the captain but I’m always available to the team to bowl if necessary.”
Pakistan celebrated its win and the avoidance of an unprecedented 5-0 series loss. But it still has some soul searching to do before the T20 World Cup later this year in the Caribbean and the United States.
Veterans Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan remain the strength of Pakistan’s batting and again provided the foundation of the Pakistan innings on Sunday with the 20th half century partnership of their joint careers.
Rizwan scored 184 runs in the series at an average of 46 and Babar 213 runs at 53.34. But Babar looked lost on a slow pitch Sunday and scored only 13 runs from 24 balls.
The 4-1 loss in this series follows Pakistan’s 3-0 loss to Australia in a three-test series prior to its arrival in New Zealand and it has now won only one of its last nine T20 series.
The pitch for Sunday’s match was a used one at Hagley Oval and Saheen’s decision to bat on winning the toss was based on his belief it might stop and turn late in the match.
In fact, it stopped and turned from the first over and batting was extremely difficult for both sides.
Pakistan handed the 20-year-old Haseebullah Khan an international debut and he was out to only the third ball of the match. Babar and Rizwan put on 52 for the second wicket but slowly: Pakistan was 29-1 after the six over power play, 53-2 after 10 overs.
Fakhar Zaman made 33 off 15 balls in an innings that gained stature in context. But after Rizwan was out for 38 there were few other innings of substance.
New Zealand would have begun with a sense of confidence that it wrap up a series sweep. But Rashin Ravindra was out in the second over, Finn Allen made only 22 and at the end of the power play it was 35-2.
Tim Seifert fell for 19, Will Young for 12 and Chapman’s run out left New Zealand 54-4 with 10.1 overs gone. Glenn Phillip became New Zealand’s main hope for a recovery but he managed only 26 from 22 balls before he was out in the 18th over.
Iftikhar quelled any possibility of a late revival.
“The pitch had slowed down a lot but I still felt we bowled quite well,” New Zealand captain Mitch Santner said. “We were pretty happy with the score but we were just outplayed in that second innings.”
AP cricket: https://apnews.com/hub/cricket