47.3 overs Pakistan 290 (Azam 83, Hafeez 76) v New Zealand
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Babar Azam’s 83 was the best score of his young career © Getty Images
Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez set Pakistan on track for a mammoth score with their 134-run third-wicket stand off 17.5 overs, but they fell away during the middle overs, losing three wickets in eight overs, before New Zealand’s quicks blew the tail apart. They wound up at 290 all out in the 48th over. That may be a reasonable score despite the small dimensions of the ground. Only two higher totals have been successfully chased at Eden Park before.
Trent Boult and Matt Henry removed Pakistan’s openers early, and took a wicket each through that middle period to keep the opposition in check. Later in the innings, Adam Milne put Pakistan’s tail in its place, as he claimed 3 for 49. Mitchell Santner broke that big third-wicket partnership, but was otherwise expensive, leaking 56 runs in his five overs.
Azam and Hafeez struck rapid fifties, before both departed when triple figure scores were on the horizon. Azam finished on 83 from 77 balls and Hafeez made 76 from 60, having struck five sixes and as many fours.
Pakistan’s openers had made another slow start before another cheap Ahmed Shehzad dismissal – this time caught by an electric Martin Guptill at short midwicket – brought Hafeez to the crease. Slapping his first ball to the point boundary, Hafeez immediately made the innings spark.
He was joined before long by Azam, and the pair began to surge together – Hafeez lifting Boult into the stand beyond long-on, before they struck two fours apiece just after the Powerplay ended. They had helpings of luck along the way, as outside edges flew wide of the wicketkeeper, but both batsmen continued to drive confidently. They pushed the run rate above six in the 12th over, and it continued to creep north of there. Hafeez struck his second six when he ran at Santner and lifted him over the sight screen in the 13th over. Azam largely preferred to keep the ball along the ground.
In between the big shots, there were ample runs into the outfield. Hafeez’ big straight six to pass 50 in the 19th over brought another swell of boundaries. He hit two more sixes in quick succession – off Milne and Santner – inspiring Azam to venture a big straight blow as well. The 21st over, bowled by Santner cost 20 runs, having yielded two sixes and a four, but he was kept in the attack, and broke the partnership in his next over. Hafeez attempted to hit a square six for the first time in his innings, and wound up mishitting his sweep to the deep square leg fielder.
Azam continued to reap regular boundaries alongside Shoaib Malik, with whom he consolidated Pakistan’s advantage. The total crossed 200 in the 30th over, and the pair’s partnership moved to 61 from 48 balls before Malik was caught behind, cutting a Boult ball close to his body. The wicket set off Pakistan’s middle order stutter. Azam was soon out, also cutting, this time middling a Henry delivery directly to Guptill at backward point.
Sarfraz Ahmed attempted to glue the back end of Pakistan’s innings together, quietly rebuilding alongside Mohammad Rizwan, until one of his straight drives took bowler Grant Elliot’s hand and clattered into the stumps at the non-striker’s end before Rizwan could ground his bat. So having been 215 for 3 after 31 overs, Pakistan suddenly found their long tail exposed as early as the 39th.
Wahab bunted and edged his way to 11 before New Zealand sent a few short balls at him, and he top-edged one to midwicket, where Guptill held on to his fourth catch of the innings. Milne blasted out two lower-order wickets soon after, forcing Sarfraz to farm the strike, and attempt boundaries off good balls. Milne got him for 41 in his next over, when a top-edged pull settled in Luke Ronchi’s gloves.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo