Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed elected to bat first after winning the toss and his decision was vindicated as the tourists put on a mammoth 201-4 in their 20 overs. In reply, the Kiwis were bowled out for 153 in the penultimate over of the match to hand the visitors a 48-run victory to tie the series at 1-1.
We look at the key talking points of a high-scoring encounter at Auckland.
PAKISTAN’S OPENERS FINALLY FIRE
Throughout the tour of New Zealand, Pakistan have failed to find a decent opening stand. Bar a couple of fifties from Fakhar Zaman in the ODI series, the lack of runs at the top has only increased the pressure on the batsmen in the middle-order.
On Thursday, Pakistan could have no complaints from their openers as Fakhar and a returning Ahmed Shehzad set-up the innings beautifully. The former in particular looked to be in his zone as he carted three sixes and five-boundaries in a 28-ball 50.
Shehzad proved to be the perfect foil for Fakhar and together, the two put on 94 runs for the first wicket, paving the way for a huge total.
BABAR AZAM AND SARFRAZ PROVIDE THE PERFECT FINISH
After a brisk stand, both Pakistan openers fell in quick succession. From that point on, Babar Azam and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed took on the mantle to further Pakistan’s progress.
The number three batsman has looked out of sorts in the tour so far but on Thursday he was back to his very best as he brought out his fluent and pleasing to the eye stroke play.
Sarfraz provided some late fireworks with three sixes in a 34-ball 41 cameo while Azam remained unbeaten on 50 as Pakistan breached the 200-run mark. The 201-run total is the highest-ever scored against New Zealand in a T20I.
TOM BRUCE’S RUN-OUT STARTS MINI KIWI COLLAPSE
Pakistan’s pacers had started the defence of 201 in the perfect manner as they removed the dangerous Colin Munro and Kane Williamson fell early.
However, the job was not complete with New Zealand’s T20 credentials. Tom Bruce had just got himself set when he took off for a quick single after dragging the ball to mid-wicket. From there with just one stump to aim for, Haris Sohail’s direct hit caught Bruce well short of his crease.
Pakistan’s young leg-spinner Shadab Khan then got into the action with two big wickets. He first had Martin Guptill caught at short-third man and then removed Colin de Grandhomme with a beautiful delivery. The latter had carted the youngster for a six and then a boundary but Shadab had the last laugh as he deceived the batsman with flight and turn to have him stumped by a country mile.
Within the space of a few overs, New Zealand went from 47-2 to 64-6, all but ending their hopes of an extraordinary chase.
PAKISTAN BREAK KIWI JINX
Before Thursday’s encounter, Pakistan had endured a miserable time against the Black Caps. The subcontinent side had lost 13 successive games across all formats to the New Zealand ever since their win in the first T20I at Wellington in 2016.
They were handed a 5-0 thrashing in the preceding ODI series and when they went down tamely in the first T20I, it looked like another whitewash would be on the cards.
Hence, the 48-run win on Thursday not only helps them level the three-match series at 1-1, it also breaks the stronghold the hosts seemed to have developed over them.
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Moeen Ali says England’s series-winning side are motivated to finish the job in Australia by the talent sitting on the sidelines.
Having already taken a decisive 3-0 lead, the tourists are looking to keep alive their hopes of a historic whitewash with another success in Adelaide.
There will be one enforced change for Friday’s Australia Day clash, Liam Plunkett out with the hamstring strain he suffered in Sydney leaving David Willey and Tom Curran primed for a recall.
But, with a first ever 5-0 scoreline against Australia still on the cards, there is no appetite for rest or rotation among the rest of the team.
Sam Billings, Dawid Malan and Jake Ball are the other squad members snapping at the heels of the first XI and, with Ben Stokes also set to return once he has appeared in court on a charge of affray, nobody wants to surrender their spot.
“Everyone is keen to make history here, 3-0 up is a great position and everyone is keen to be on the park, to keep playing the way we’re playing,” he said.
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“We’ve got some brilliant players who can’t get into the team and you don’t want to give your spot up. You want to be part of this team.
“The guys who are not in are training so hard to try and get in but at the moment, the way we’re playing, everyone is doing something on the field and it’s hard to get in.
“You see the guys guys who aren’t in – obviously Ben Stokes, who hopefully is going to come back into the team and make it even stronger, players like Sam Billings and Tom Curran who are terrific white-ball players and can’t get into the team and that shows where we are at the moment.”
Despite his enthusiasm, Moeen will be stepping aside for the forthcoming Twenty20 tri-series, an almost inevitable consequence of his status as a three-format player and the exhaustive nature of the schedule.
And while a period of time at home certainly appeals, he has also seen at first hand the benefits of reinvigorating the squad with changes between formats.
“We did that a couple of years ago, where Jimmy (Anderson) and Broady (Stuart Broad) stopped playing white-ball cricket,” he said.
“We’ve got bowlers now who are fresh when they come into these teams. After the Ashes series we had Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett, who are guys that bowl fast.
“When you’ve played the Ashes and lost and those fresh faces come in to lift the dressing room the environment is completely different.
“I’m going to miss being around for those two weeks and playing the T20s but it’s been a long time. I’m not looking forward to the cold but I’m looking forward to getting home and seeing the family for a couple of weeks.”
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Seeking to avoid their first-ever whitewash on South African shores, India captain Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first on a difficult track in the third and final Test at the Wanderers in Johanessburg.
Faf du Plessis also named an all-pace bowling attack on a greenish pitch with Andile Phehlukwayo coming in for Keshav Maharaj.
India were bowled out for 187 in their first innings as South Africa ended day one at 6-1.
INDIA’S OPENING HORROR SHOW CONTINUES
With opening stands of 16, 30, 28 and 11 so far in the first two Tests, it’s safe to say that it’s not been happy days for India’s openers so far.
While Shikhar Dhawan partnered Murali Vijay in the opening Test, KL Rahul was preferred in the second. The latter kept his place in the side at the Wanderers but his performance on Wednesday did little to justify that decision.
After being tested by South Africa’s pacers for 13 deliveries, Rahul departed for a duck after inside edging a Vernon Philander in-swinger which Quinton de Kock did well to collect. Vijay followed him to the dressing room a few moments later as his attempt to drive Kagiso Rabada through the covers could only muster a faint edge on the way to the wicket-keeper as India were reduced to 13-2.
After 10 innings between the three batsmen in the series so far, India’s openers average an abysmal 12.30, a testament to their struggles in South Africa.
KOHLI MAKES THE MOST OF TWO LIVES
After losing both openers so early, the pressure was on India’s batsmen as the Proteas’ pacers had their tails up.
On a difficult pitch, the Indian skipper was given two lifelines by the South Africans. He was let-off first by Philander off the bowling of Rabada before AB De Villiers dropped a sitter at third slip.
Edges evaded fielders and multiple plays and misses followed but Kohli hung on for dear life and made the South Africans pay with a half-century to remember.
His luck eventually ran out though while batting on 54 as De Villiers made up for his earlier drop by snatching an outside edge off Lungi Ngidi’s bowling.
CHETESHWAR PUJARA STANDS FIRM
While India’s openers have struggled on the tour, it has been no different with Cheteshwar Pujara who had gone 12 innings without scoring a fifty outside Asia when coming into the final Test.
After India lost the openers cheaply, Pujara dug deep. He was constantly beaten by the movement generated by Philander, Rabada and Morne Morkel but his resolve would not be broken easily.
It took the number three batsman 54 deliveries to open his account, underlining his patience at the crease and dogged determination. He saw off the new ball and was beginning to get into the flow of runs with the older ball as he brought up one of his finest half-centuries.
An outside edge off Phehlukwayo ended his 179-ball vigil at the crease but it was a fighting innings from Pujara which exemplified his penchant for doing the dirty work for the team.
INDIA CRUMBLE AFTER PUJARA’S DISMISSAL
After Pujara’s marathon knock was ended by Phehlukwayo, India’s lower middle-order crumbled under constant pressure by the pacers.
Rahane was dismissed by Philander but a retrospective no-ball call afforded him another chance. The Mumbai-batsman was unable to make the most of the reprieve as Philander got his man after trapping him on the pads.
Parthiv Patel would follow him soon after as he attempted to cut a Morkel delivery over point only to edge it to de Kock. Hardik Pandya, in a bid to counter-attack, top-edged a Phehlukwayo delivery as de Kock completed an excellent running catch.
All of a sudden, Indian went from 144-4 to 144-7.
BHUVNESHWAR STRIKES EARLY AFTER HANDY CAMEO
Bhuvneshwar’s credentials with the bat were confirmed in the first Test where the 127 deliveries he faced were the most by any Indian batsman. He showed some good application once again at the Wanderers with a robust innings. His handy cameo of 29 runs on Wednesday helped India reached 187 in their first innings after a sub-150 score looked on the cards.
His immaculate seam-bowling then got India off to the best start possible with the ball when he had Aiden Markram knick one on the way to Patel. He bowled quite a few unplayable deliveries in his three overs on the day and will be looking to provide some more early breakthroughs when South Africa come out to bat at 6-1 on Thursday morning.