Pakistan started off their five-match series against New Zealand with a bang as they won the first T20 by a considerable margin of 88 runs. This victory was also special, marking the 100th Twenty20 match of Pakistan’s all-format captain Babar Azam.
The April 14 match saw fast bowler Haris Rauf steal the show with his career-best figures of 4-18. In a remarkable performance, Shaheen Afridi outdid Matt Henry’s hat trick earlier in the match, as New Zealand were dismissed for a paltry 94 with over four overs remaining, losing their five wickets for just six runs.
Saim Ayub and Fakhar Zaman, two of Pakistan’s rapidly improving young batters, each scored 47 runs before New Zealand managed to take wickets in the latter half of the innings.
Babar Azam expressed his excitement about playing his 100th T20 match, saying, Babar Azam expressed his gratitude, saying, “It is a huge honor to remember my journey from starting off as a ball-boy on the sidelines to now being here.”
After resting four frontline players, including Haris Rauf and Babar Azam, Pakistan returned to full strength for their series against New Zealand. This came after their defeat to Afghanistan 2-1 in the United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, New Zealand is currently on a tour of Pakistan for a series of five T20s and five ODIs, but they are without eight of their key players who are occupied with the Indian Premier League.
The match also saw New Zealand captain Tom Latham admitting that his team could not adapt to the conditions quickly enough, saying, New Zealand captain Tom Latham said that many of his players were new to the conditions and that they would need to learn quickly from this game and adapt faster tomorrow. He also acknowledged that Pakistan’s score was slightly above what they had expected on that surface.
In the powerplay, Adam Milne struck early for New Zealand by trapping Mohammad Rizwan leg before wicket. Babar Azam attempted an over-ambitious shot on the offside against the pacer, resulting in his dismissal for nine off seven balls.
The left-handed duo of Saim and Fakhar put together a fierce 79-run partnership off just 43 balls, but Saim was run out thanks to Chad Bowes’ direct throw from deep midwicket. Fakhar also fell to a catch in the deep, attempting a sweep against leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, leaving Pakistan at 6-131.In his return spell, Matt Henry achieved a split hat trick by getting Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed caught behind on the final two deliveries of his third over.
Henry then added another wicket to his tally by dismissing Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was caught in the deep by a spectacular effort from Daryl Mitchell. Despite falling over the boundary line, Mitchell managed to throw the ball back into the field before completing the catch.
Pakistan’s strong pace attack rattled New Zealand’s inexperienced top-order, with Mark Chapman scoring a risky 34, but not before Mohammad Rizwan missed a straightforward stumping early in his innings. Haris Rauf claimed three wickets in his return spell, wrapping up the innings quickly, while left-arm spinner Imad Wasim took two wickets in successive deliveries, giving Pakistan a resounding start to the series.
The following two T20s will be held in Lahore before Rawalpindi stages the series’ last two games. Five ODIs will follow the T20 series in Rawalpindi and Karachi. With such a strong start, Pakistan will aim to continue their winning streak in the upcoming matches.