After New Zealand lost their T20I World Cup 2021 opener against Pakistan by 5 wickets in Sharjah on Tuesday, Kane Williamson has praised the Babar Azam-led team. Williamson also rued the loss versus the Babar Azam-led side, saying that his bowlers bowled well and put the team on the cusp of victory.
Spinners Ish Sodhi (2/28), Mitchell Santner (1/33) and Trent Boult (1/29) at one stage had reduced Pakistan to 87 for 5 in 14.5 overs during the 135-run chase. However, a stunning partnership of 48 unbeaten runs off just 23 balls by Shoaib Malik (26 off 20) and Asif Ali (27 from 12) snatched the match from the Kiwis.
In the post-match presentation ceremony, Kane Williamson called "stronga and smart" was a side to watch out for in the ongoing T20 World Cup 2021 in the UAE and Oman. New Zealand next face India on October 31 in Dubai.
"It is very disappointing. We were optimistic at the halfway stage. It was going to be really tough, we were a boundary or two at being above par. There were small margins, but we couldn't nail it at the back end. Credit to Pakistan, that are a strong side and were very smart. I thought our bowlers were outstanding for 80% of the game. Quite tough to swallow. We were going into the second half, but this is a very good Pakistani side and are a team to watch. It is a game of small margins, we go to a different venue against India. We will have conversations and play accordingly. There were a few good decisions, but there are very small margins in these low-scoring games," Willaimson said after the match.
Earlier, Pakistan asked New Zealand to bat first after winning the match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Openers Martin Guptill (17 off 20) and Daryl Mitchell (27 off 20) helped New Zealand accumulate 42 runs for the loss of one wicket in the Powerplay overs. Guptill was clean bowled by Haris Rauf in the sixth over, while Mitchell departed after Fakhar Zaman took a catch off Imad Wasim's bowling.
Jimmy Nisham (1) walked in at No. 4 to join captain Kane Williamson but his 2-ball stay was ended by Mohmaad Hafeez as Zaman grabbed another catch. Kane Willaimson looking well set when an excellent field work from Hasan Ali forced him to walk back to the pavilion after a 26-ball 25.
Devon Conway chipped in with 27 off 24 but wickets kept on falling one after the other as the Kiwis were restricted to 134/8 in 20 overs. Shaheen Afridi, who started off with a maiden over took oen wicket for 21 runs, while Rauf ended up with figures of four for 22 in his four overs spell.
Chasing the target, Kane Williamson made quick bowling changes and his bolwers kept things tight in the middle to build pressure on Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan - Pakistan's opening duo who helped Pakistan seal a 10-wicket win against arch-rivals India on Sunday. Babar succumed to the pressure and was bowled by Tim Southee to become his 100th T20I dismissal.
Fakhan Zaman tried to raise the tempo with a massive six off Ish Sodhi but was soon trapped in front of the stumps by the spinner. Hafeez (11 off 6) also departed after hitting one maximum. Pakistan's No. 5 Shoaib Malik and Imad Wasim tried building a partnership but Trent Boult struck in the 15th overs to hunt down the latter.
48 runs were needed off 31 balls when Asif Ali joined Malik. The 30-year-old right-hander got off to the mark by hitting a boundary through point. Malik also showed intent in next over, hitting a boundary off Sodhi. Southee took the responsibility of bbowling the 17th over but was treated hasrshly by Ali, who had smacked two back-to-back sixes before being hit on the helmet by the speedster.
24 runs were needed in the last three and Malik hit a boundary on the first ball of the 18th over from Mitchell Santner. A ball later, the experineced campaigner charged down the ground to smack a gigantic six over long-off. Pakisan needed 9 runs from 12 after the end of the expensive over.
Asif Ali hit another six and off Boult this time and then ran a double to hand his pumped up team a 5-wicket win with 8 balls remaining. Pakistan have now won two out of their two matches in the showpiece event which started on October 17.