In a stunning turn of events, Pakistan's spinners orchestrated a brilliant performance, securing a remarkable 42-run victory over New Zealand in the fifth and final Twenty20 international on Sunday. Despite losing the series 4-1, Pakistan managed to salvage pride by dismissing the Black Caps for a mere 92 runs while defending their total of 134-8. This unexpected triumph provided a positive conclusion to a challenging series.
Spinners Shine Bright
The star of the show was the part-time offspinner, Iftikhar Ahmed, who delivered a career-best performance with figures of 3-24. New Zealand's batting lineup, weakened due to the absence of key players like Kane Williamson, Devon Conway, and Daryl Mitchell, struggled against the turning ball. The turning point came when Pakistan's spinners, led by Ahmed, dismantled the opposition, claiming the last eight wickets for just 39 runs.
Superb Bowling Display
Pakistan's bowling unit, led by left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz (2-18) and Shaheen Shah Afridi (2-20), exhibited their best performance of the series. Nawaz was effective with the new ball, dismissing Rachin Ravindra and Will Young early on, while Afridi contributed crucial breakthroughs at the end of his maiden series as captain. This collective effort restricted New Zealand to their eighth-lowest T20 total, marking a significant improvement for Pakistan.
New Zealand's Batting Struggles
New Zealand, missing key players, found themselves in a challenging situation as only Finn Allen (22) and Glenn Phillips (26) managed to pass the 20-run mark. The absence of Williamson, Conway, and Mitchell left a void in the batting lineup, and Pakistan exploited it brilliantly. The Black Caps' batting woes were evident as they succumbed to Pakistan's bowling prowess, showcasing their vulnerability against spin.
Pakistan's Initial Struggle
In the earlier stages of the match, it seemed like New Zealand was poised for a clean sweep as they restricted Pakistan's batters with disciplined bowling. Seamers Tim Southee, Matt Henry, and Lockie Ferguson, along with spinner Ish Sodhi, claimed wickets to keep the pressure on Pakistan. Southee, the highest wicket-taker in T20 cricket, made early breakthroughs, dismissing debutant Haseebullah Khan and later removing the dangerous Fakhar Zaman.
Despite Pakistan's struggles, top-scorer Mohammad Rizwan fought valiantly, scoring 38 off 38 balls. His resilience, however, couldn't prevent Pakistan from posting their lowest first-innings score in the series. The disciplined bowling performance by New Zealand initially put them in control, but the late-game heroics by Pakistan's bowlers turned the tide in favor of the visitors.
In conclusion, Pakistan's unexpected victory in the fifth T20 match showcased their resilience and ability to bounce back. The spinners' dominance, coupled with New Zealand's batting challenges, made for a thrilling contest that provided a positive ending to a challenging series for Pakistan.