Image courtesy of: Zimbio
Henry Nicholls scored a brilliant 82 as New Zealand crushed Pakistan by 70 runs in the first ODI in Wellington.
Nicholls was well supported by Mitchell Santner and Matt Henry as they made 48 runs apiece and left-arm pace bowler Trent Boult, who took four wickets.
However, Pakistan batsman Babar Azam deserves a lot of credit for his fantastic innings of 62.
Pakistan captain Azhar Ali would have been delighted with his decision to bowl first as New Zealand were reduced to 99/6 in the 23rd over.
With the Black Caps struggling to stay above the surface, Nicholls and Santner amassed a 79-run partnership, during which Nicholls brought up his half-century, before Santner was caught behind off the bowling of Mohammad Irfan for 48.
Nicholls went on to make 82 off 111 balls, which included seven boundaries, before he was clean bowled by Anwar Ali.
Despite the loss of Santner and Nicholls, Henry and Mitchell McClenaghan kept the runs flowing with a 73-run partnership before McClenaghan was hit in the face by a bouncer from Ali and retired hurt on 31.
Henry ended up finishing on 48 as New Zealand made 280/8 off their 50 overs.
Ali and Mohammad Amir, who was playing his first ODI in more than five years, took three wickets apiece, while Irfan picked up two.
Chasing 281 to win, Azam and Mohammad Hafeez were the only two batsmen to make decent contributions as the former scored 62 off 76 deliveries, which included six boundaries, while the latter made 42.
Image courtesy of: Zimbio
With wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed being the only other batsman to surpass the 20-run mark, Pakistan fell well short of their target as they were bowled out for 210.
Boult was the most successful bowler with four wickets, while Grant Elliott snapped up three and Santner, Corey Anderson and stand-in captain Kane Williamson claimed one wicket each.
Azhar Ali was disappointed to lose, and said: “We got six wickets for 99. From there, scoring 280 was exceptional. I think all the bowlers bowled really well. Only the last few overs went for too many. I think it was chaseable. The wickets of Hafeez and Babar at that time cost us. There is a lot of positives from this game. We will try to correct ourselves in the next game.”
Williamson was delighted to go 1-0 up in the series, and said: “The first quarter was a low score. The way the bowlers whacked it around the park went a long way in giving us the total. It was great effort from the lower order and Nicholls. We were smart with the ball. Henry anchoring the innings gave us a competitive total. It was unfortunate to Mitch, he has got a few stitches. Hopefully, he will be okay. The spin of Mitch Santner was pretty good; the boys juggled nicely.”
Nicholls was named Man of the Match, and said: “They bowled really well at the start, but we found a way to get back into the game. We just managed to stay positive, 280 was probably a fraction above par. Playing in the Big Bash is a great experience. It was been a full-on week.”