KARACHI: Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam’s quick half-centuries guided Pakistan to their first triumph on their New Zealand tour as they claimed a 48-run win in Auckland on Thurday, with former cricketers praising both batsmen and bowlers.
Pakistan’s willow-wielders finally gave the Men in Green a good start as Zaman and Ahmad Shahzad combined for a 94-run opening stand inside the first 10 over.
Zaman’s quick-fire 50 took just 28 balls, while Shahzad made 44 off 34.
There were fears that the innings might falter or even collapse when the two men fell within four balls of each other but the incoming duo of Babar and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed ensured that was not the case as they continued to take the attack to the New Zealand bowlers.
Babar brought up his 50 off the final ball of the innings with a boundary, taking just 29 balls to do so, while Sarfraz was dismissed for 41 off just 24 balls.
With 202 to chase, New Zealand were always going to be up against it; even considering the small boundaries at Eden Park.
Pakistan’s bowlers ensured there was no chance of the score ever being chased down as they kept making regular inroads. By the ninth over, New Zealand had been reduced to 64-6 and the chase was effectively over.
‘The team showed spirit’
Pakistan’s win has understandably drawn plaudits from pundits and former chief selector Salahuddin Sallu
“The team has been lacking spirit on this tour but today you could see it right from the start,” he said. “It was clear to see they were all supporting each other and playing as one unit; with both bat and ball.”
Sallu believes the main difference was the opening stand. “Fakhar and Shahzad played superbly today,” he said. “The way Shahzad supported Fakhar was great to see; he didn’t try to hog the limelight and instead just let Fakhar play his game.”
Sallu added that Babar was able to play aggressively due to the platform set by the openers. “The way Babar played was down to the opening partnership,” he said. “Babar is a very technically sound player and when he came out into the middle there was very little pressure on him so he was able to play his natural game.”
The 70-year-old went on to urge skipper Sarfraz Ahmed to promote himself up the order, having impressed in the number four role in the absence of usual occupants Muhammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. “This is what you want to see from the captain; he needs to be responsible and take charge of the situation by coming in early,” he said.
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