DUBAI: Pakistan will look to finish off the series when they face New Zealand in the second Twenty20 International here at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday.
For a team coming out of a seven-month hiatus from international cricket, New Zealand did quite well to brush off the dust and give Pakistan a scare in the first T20 of the three-match series at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Having been restricted to 148-6 by a varied New Zealand attack, Pakistan were able to escape with a two-run victory. Pakistan will now have their eyes set on closing out the series in the very next game, to build on the 10-series winning streak.
New Zealand will rue the missed opportunity in the first game, but will take heart from what was still quite a decent performance.
The tourists’ bowling and top-order batting were particularly good, but they will want to be better prepared to tackle the spinners with the slightly softer ball in the middle overs.
In the first game, they slipped from 79-1 to 89-4, which severely dented their chase. Colin Munro did the heavy scoring at the top of the order with a 42-ball 58, but after his dismissal things went downhill.
The New Zealand batsmen will want to take a leaf out of Ross Taylor’s book in their quest to capitalise on the middle-overs. The veteran batsman scored a fantastic 42 not out off just 26 deliveries even as wickets tumbled rapidly at the other end. They know that if just one other batsman had chipped in, the result might have been different.
Pakistan will be pleased that they were able to post a decent total on a tricky pitch even though Babar Azam finally failed at the top of the order his scores of 68 not out, 45 and 50 were crucial in Pakistan clean-sweeping Australia in the preceding T20 series. He was dismissed for seven by Adam Milne, but Asif Ali, Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfraz Ahmed chipped in with sizeable contributions to steady the side.
For Pakistan to continue winning, it will be crucial for the spinners to continue bowling the way they have, but New Zealand’s prospects of milking runs will improve significantly if captain Kane Williamson a naturally sound player of spin finds form in the second game.
Meanwhile, Hafeez acknowledged New Zealand had sent a strong warning in the first T20.
“New Zealand always brings something new in this format and surprises you,” Hafeez said. “They were excellent on the field and took some really outstanding catches on the night.
“We have another game coming up on Friday and I believe it’s going to be another tough game. We need to really work hard and hit all the areas to win against them.”
Hafeez said coming into the contest with momentum behind them helped them get across the line.
“The momentum on our side was an advantage,” he said. “We have been successful in the shortest format of the game and that has provided the players the confidence at the moment.”
The energy in the young Pakistan squad is tremendous and Hafeez is sure they all are capable of handling their own pressures.
“Everyone wants to perform and that a huge plus,” the veteran all-rounder said.
“Each one of us wants to cash these moments. And I believe if we keep winning these tight matches, our confidence will rise.”