After bowling New Zealand out for 92 on Sunday to win the fifth Twenty20 international by 42 runs and stave off a clean sweep of the five-match series, Pakistan produced an unlikely hero.
After opting to bat, the tourists managed a total of 134-8, which seemed insufficient considering that it was their lowest score of the series following defeats of 180, 173, 179-7, and 158-5 in the four prior games.
On a subpar pitch at Hagley, however, it proved to be more than sufficient, and New Zealand barely beat their previous lowest total in a T20 international in New Zealand.
Iftikhar Ahmed emerged as Pakistan’s unexpected hero. The 33-year-old has only four wickets in 53 Twenty20 matches, hadn’t bowled in Pakistan’s previous eight Twenty20 matches, and hadn’t taken a wicket since 2022.
However, he flourished on a pitch that gripped and spun, and he took 3-11 to be the main man in the collapse of New Zealand. His prior best stood at 1–7.
Iftikhar removed Will Young (12) with a catch, dismissed Tim Seifert (19), Matt Henry (1), and Ish Sodhi (1), and contributed to Mark Chapman’s runout (1).
Pakistan rejoiced at their victory and the escape of a very rare 5-0 series loss. However, before the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the US later this year, there is still some introspection to be done.
The batting duo of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who are veterans, continue to be Pakistan’s strongest asset. Their 20th half-century partnership on Sunday laid the groundwork for the Pakistani innings.
In the series, Babar scored 213 runs at 53.34 and Rizwan scored 184 runs at an average of 46. On a sluggish pitch on Sunday, though, Babar appeared disoriented and managed just 13 runs from 24 balls.
Pakistan has now only won one of its previous nine Twenty20 series after losing 3-0 to Australia in a three-test series before traveling to New Zealand. Pakistan presently trails 4-1 in this series.
Hagley Oval’s pitch was used for Sunday’s game, and Saheen chose to bat after winning the toss because he thought the pitch would stop and turn later in the game.
It actually turned and halted in the first over, making batting very tough for both sides.
Haseebullah Khan, 20, made his debut for Pakistan on the international scene and was out on the third ball of the game. Slowly, Babar and Rizwan put on 52 for the second wicket; after the six-over power play, Pakistan was 29-1 and after ten overs, 53-2.
In an innings that became significance in the circumstances, Fakhar Zaman scored 33 runs off of 15 balls. However, following Rizwan’s 38-run out, there weren’t many meaningful innings.
It would have started with New Zealand feeling confident that it could sweep the series. However, Finn Allen made just 22 runs and Rashin Ravindra was out in the second over, leaving the score at 35-2 after the power play.
After 10.1 overs, Tim Seifert was out for 19, Will Young was out for 12, and Chapman was run out, leaving New Zealand at 54-4. Although Glenn Phillip emerged as New Zealand’s best chance of survival, he was dismissed in the eighteenth over after scoring just 26 off of 22 balls.
Iftikhar put an end to any hope of a comeback later.