Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed smashed a career-best 76 to not only lead his side to a seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the first Twenty20 International in Dubai, but also give them a 1-0 lead in the series.
However, New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson deserves a lot of credit for his valiant knock of 48.
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi would have been pleased with his decision to bowl first after it took pace bowler Anwar Ali only three balls to trap New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson lbw for a golden duck.
Anton Devcich only made one run before he was given out lbw off the bowling of Sohail Tanvir.
Ross Taylor fared no better as he was caught by Umar Akmal at point off the bowling of Mohammad Irfan for four runs.
Martin Guptill and Anderson stabilised the innings with a 46-run partnership before Guptill was clean bowled by Afridi for 32.
Anderson and Luke Ronchi kept the runs flowing with a 51-run partnership before Anderson was caught by Saad Nasim at deep midwicket off the bowling of Raza Hasan.
Anderson’s excellent knock of 48 came off 37 balls and included one boundary and four sixes.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
James Neesham scored six runs before he was caught by Akmal at long-off off the bowling of Irfan.
Ronchi ended up making 33 runs before he was cleaned up by Tanvir.
Thanks to Anderson and Ronchi, New Zealand finished on 135/7 off their 20 overs.
Tanvir and Irfan picked up two wickets apiece, while Ali, Hasan and Afridi chipped in with one wicket each.
Chasing 136 to win, Pakistan got off to a brilliant start as Ahmed and Awais Zia amassed a 51-run partnership before Zia was run out by Devcich for 20.
Mohammad Hafeez only made two runs before he was run out by Ronchi.
Haris Sohail mustered 11 runs before he was caught by Nathan McCullum at midwicket off the bowling of Mitchell McClenaghan.
Ahmed and Akmal accumulated an unbeaten 43-run partnership to hand Pakistan a seven-wicket win with five balls to spare.
Ahmed scored a career-best 76, which came off 64 balls and included eight boundaries and two sixes, while Akmal remained undefeated on 27 off 14 deliveries, which included three boundaries and a six.
McClenaghan was the only bowler to take a wicket.
Williamson was disappointed to have lost the match, and said: “We want to improve on our performance. There were things that went wrong today. We lost wickets early today and then couldn’t pick up wickets with the ball. It’s great to have a look at all the players with so much cricket to come. They had a bit of dew when they were playing, but they just outplayed us.”
Afridi was ecstatic to have taken a 1-0 lead in the series, and said: “It’s difficult to come back after a long time, but this is how it has been for the last 18 years of my career. I have handled challenges all along. We had a long batting line-up so we were confident. But the credit goes to the bowlers for bowling brilliantly, then Sarfraz played an excellent innings. He is in great form. The atmosphere within the team is great at the moment and if it continues like this, Pakistan will do better in the coming days.”
Ahmed was named Man of the Match, and said: “I want to give the credit to Waqar Bhai and Shahid Bhai for sending me at the top of the order. It’s difficult in this format to come late because you have to hit every ball but it’s easier at the top as you have time to play yourself in. The sweep shot gives me confidence.”