A full-strength Pakistani team easily defeated New Zealand in the opening game of this series, winning by an 88-run margin. This did little to remove the notion that these two teams are not on equal footing. Pakistan was set up for an impressive total on a pitch that gave much to the fast bowlers thanks to a 79-run standoff of 43 balls between Fakhar Zaman and Saim Ayub, who each struck a brisk 47. The 182 Pakistan was knocked out for was still far over average, especially when compared to a bowling lineup of their caliber. And it only took them 15.3 overs to dismiss New Zealand for 94 runs.
It was perhaps fitting that the PSL 2023 champion Lahore Qalandars’ golden trio all featured in the first T20I in Lahore and each made their presence known in a major way. Zaman Khan, Haris Rauf, and Shaheen Shah Afridi each claimed one of the first three wickets, and Daryl Mitchell’s short stint has been put an end by Faheem Ashraf. In the eleventh over, it reduced New Zealand to 56 for 4, giving them an asking rate of more than 13.
It was an inappropriate matchup given Pakistan’s unbeatable bowling class and New Zealand’s expertise in batting in the bottom order. With the final five wickets going for just six runs, the finish came quite swiftly.
Ayub and Fakhar starting the batting in a T20 would be a great addition to many lineups, but with Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan returning, they each fell a place. Even for a pair of that caliber, Adam Milne’s speed presented several challenges, and inside the first five overs, the New Zealander had removed both the captain and wicketkeeper of Pakistan.
Even though the powerplay was almost over, Fakhar and Ayub continued to act aggressively. The tone was established with Ayub’s two fours in the sixth over. The ninth over, which had three fours and dismantled Jimmy Neesham, saw a change in momentum, but it was the next two overs that saw New Zealand completely lose control. Sodhi had only given up two runs in his first over, but in his second over, Fakhar and Ayub each hit a six, and then Milne, who had been the greatest bowler up to that moment, took the same beating. Between overs nine and eleven, the partnership scored 46 runs, and Pakistan was making good progress.
If there is any solace New Zealand can take from this match, it is the potential weakness in Pakistan’s lower middle order. With the majority of the top-order batsmen naturally, New Zealand started to nibble away menacingly. While Sodhi removed Fakhar at the other end, Matt Henry came back to dismiss Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed off consecutive deliveries, giving him a hat-trick. After four wickets went for 22 runs, the visitors saw an opening to dismiss Pakistan.
It was wasted, but Pakistan was rescued by a cameo from Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf, and two boundaries from Rauf enabled Pakistan to pass 180. However, Matt Henry made a comeback for the last over and struck with his first ball due to an outstanding boundary catch, providing comfort for New Zealand. He was able to bowl Pakistan out in the stipulated 20 overs, giving him a hat-trick.
For any lineup on any surface, Zaman, Afridi, and Rauf are fearsome attacks, and they proved to be too much for New Zealand to manage. They were never able to maintain the run pace or even hold onto enough wickets to hold out any thoughts of extending the game while chasing down 183. With Chad Bowes squared up after only three deliveries from Zaman, Afridi then finished off Will Young with a brilliant inswinger, the batter’s sloppy stroke being no match for the ball.
A couple of counterattacking innings from Neesham and Mark Chapman helped restore some scoreboard respectability, giving Pakistan enough breathing room to stop worrying. The way the game sped up towards its climax gave off the strong sense that Pakistan might end the match nearly whenever they wanted. Neesham holed out to Rauf, and New Zealand fell to the ground. Before Rauf returned to knock back Ben Lister’s stumps, Imad had already removed Milne and Henry, giving him 4 for 18, which is a career-high for T20Is.
The first T20I between Pakistan and New Zealand was won convincingly by Pakistan with an 88-run margin. Pakistan’s opening batsmen, Fakhar Zaman, and Saim Ayub set up an impressive total of 182 on a pitch that gave much to the fast bowlers. New Zealand’s bowling lineup, including Adam Milne, presented challenges to the opening pair, but they continued to act aggressively and scored 46 runs between overs nine and eleven.
New Zealand’s batting lineup struggled against Pakistan’s unbeatable bowling class, and they were unable to maintain the run pace or hold onto enough wickets to extend the game while chasing down 183. With Chad Bowes and Will Young, both dismissed early, the visitors were reduced to 56 for 4 in the eleventh over. While a couple of counterattacking innings from Jimmy Neesham and Mark Chapman helped restore some scoreboard respectability, Pakistan’s bowlers proved too much for New Zealand to handle.
Matt Henry’s hat trick provided some comfort for New Zealand, but Pakistan’s lower middle order was rescued by a cameo from Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf, and two boundaries from Haris Rauf enabled Pakistan to pass 180. Despite New Zealand’s potential weakness in Pakistan’s lower middle order, they were unable to capitalize on it, and Pakistan’s fearsome attack of Zaman, Afridi, and Rauf proved too much for them to manage.
Overall, Pakistan’s performance was impressive, particularly their opening batsmen and bowling attack. New Zealand will need to regroup and come up with a better strategy if they hope to compete in the remainder of the series.
After a comprehensive win in the first T20I, Pakistan will be looking to continue their winning momentum against New Zealand in the second T20I match scheduled for tomorrow. Their opening pair of Fakhar Zaman and Saim Ayub will once again be the key for Pakistan to set a good total, while their bowling attack, led by Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali and Haris Rauf, will aim to restrict New Zealand’s batting lineup.
On the other hand, New Zealand will be eager to bounce back and level the series. They would be hoping for their top order batsmen, including Devon Conway and Glenn Phillips, to fire and provide a solid platform for the middle order to build upon. Their bowling department would be led by the likes of Adam Milne and Ish Sodhi, who have the potential to take wickets in the middle overs.
Overall, the second T20I promises to be an exciting encounter between two quality teams. It will be interesting to see how both sides adjust their strategies and tactics based on the conditions and performance from the first match.