Pakistan, thriving on an all-round show, especially the pace bowling of young Naseem Shah (2/38) and Haris Rauf (2/22), defeated hosts New Zealand by five wickets at the Hagley Oval to clinch the Tri-series title on Friday, and look set to enter the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia full of confidence.
Chasing 164 for victory, built largely on the exploits of New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson’s 59, three Pakistani batters — opener Mohammad Rizwan, Mohamad Nawaz, and Haider Ali — scored in the 30s to pull off an easy victory with three balls to spare in the final.
However, there were a lot of positives for both Pakistan and New Zealand as they gear up for the T20 World Cup, with Williamson showing glimpses of his class in the final, smashing a 38-ball 59 after being off-color for most of this year in all formats.
The Black Caps skipper’s shots flowed and his innings consisted of four boundaries and two sixes and came at a strike rate of 155.28. Moving into the T20 World Cup in Australia, the promise shown by Williamson will be a major boost for the runners-up in the previous edition of the tournament.
For Pakistan, Rauf was again the star performer with the ball. The 28-year-old right-arm pace bowler snared two wickets, including the wicket of the ever-reliable Devon Conway, and gave away only 22 runs. He bowled 12 dot balls and went at a miserly economy of 5.50.
Pakistan’s pace spearheads Shaheen Shah Afridi, who will return to the side for the T20 World Cup warm-up games and the tournament proper, and Rauf could forge a potent combination as the Babar Azam-led side aims to make an impact in Australia.
For Pakistan, the biggest talking point heading into the showpiece event has been the scoring rate at which their batting order scores. Concerns have been raised around their middle order, with a heavy reliance on the skipper and Rizwan to fire at the top.
In the final against New Zealand, some of these fears were put to rest as Nawaz, Haider Ali and Iftikhar Ahmed played aggressive knocks each to get Pakistan over the line.
Nawaz scored an unbeaten 38 off 22, Ali scored 31 off 15 and Ahmed struck 25 not out off 14. The trio hit 6 sixes between them in total and their contributions in the contest will have many Pakistan fans breathing a sigh of relief.
Brief scores: New Zealand 163/7 in 20 overs (Kane Williamson 59; Naseem Shah 2/38, Haris Rauf 2/22 ) lost to Pakistan 168/5 in 19.3 overs (Md Rizwan 34, Md Nawaz 38 n.o., Haider Ali 31, Iftikhar Ahmed 25 n.o.) by five wickets.