It was a hard-fought tour for New-Zealanders at the UAE, in which they tied both the test and T20 series 1-1 but had an upper hand in the ODI series with a victory in the final ODI at Abu Dhabi. The resurgent Pakistan side faced the Kiwis in the desert after their creditable performance against Australia, which was on display as the New Zealand arrived to take them on for Abu Dhabi’s first test. Fresh from their assault of the Aussies, Pakistan beat New Zealand by 248 runs. But from second test onwards, the Kiwis bounced back and fought neck-and-neck. In the end, it was fitting that they returned home victorious after beating Pakistan in the fourth and fifth ODI games after trailing 1-2 at the end of Sharjah’s third match. The last game was played on Friday and after New Zealand scored 275/4, they bowled out Pakistan for 207 to win by a big margin. In the fourth ODI, two days earlier, it was a close affair with Pakistan facing a 300-run target and losing by just 7 runs.
In the last ODI, it was skipper Kane Williamson once again, who stood like a rock after his scintillating century in the fourth ODI. New Zealand began by losing an early wicket, when Martin Guptill fell in the third over but Williamson joined the other opener Dean Brownlie and together they added 68 for the second wicket, before Brownlie fell to Zulfiqar Babar for 34. But the worse thing for new-Zealand was the drop in scoring rate, which hovered at just above 4 by 20th over with Pakistani bowlers applying pressure. Williamson was aware of this and he had a mid-pitch chat with the new man Ross Taylor. After that the complexion of the batting changed and as the two indulged in some brisk scoring. Taylor and Williamson scored most of their runs from smart running between the wickets in stealing singles and converting singles into twos. Taylor was slightly uncomfortable at the start and scored his first boundary in the 47th ball. But he didn’t get stuck as his 50 came in 67 balls with New Zealand taking 35 from batting Power-play. Williamson and Taylor checked the aerial shots and avoided risks. The third wicket stand swelled to 116 and the scoring rate reached close to 5 as New-Zealand entered the slog overs. Williamson departed at 97 to the guile of Shahid Afridi, when he top-edged a sweep to the wicketkeeper. Even then New Zealand were nicely placed with Taylor having Luke Ronchi for company. Ronchi departed at 241 in the 47th over after scoring a 12-ball 16. Thereafter, Latham added 22 in 14 balls and Taylor remained unbeaten on 88 as New Zealand reached a challenging 275/4 in 50 overs.
On Abu Dhabi’s slow pitch, the target of 276 was not all that easy for Pakistan, who didn’t have the mercurial Mohammad Hafiz as the batsman still nursed an injury. But New-Zealanders were aware of Pakistan almost coming close to chasing the target of 300 in the earlier game. However, Pakistan started disastrously, losing their first wicket for zero in the opening over, when Matt Henry bowled one to Nasir Jamshed that struck his pads as he tried to work the ball across the line. The batsman lost the regulatory time for review as he kept talking to his partner from the other end for long. He could have saved his wicket since the replay showed the ball leaving the leg stump. Henry struck again, when a short ball from him touched Younis Khan’s gloves and Ronchi held him behind the sticks. In 9 overs, Pakistan were 22/2 and soon compounded their woes by losing Asad Shafiq at 38. But Haris Sohail and Ahmed Shehzad steadied the boat somewhat by adding 69 for the fourth wicket, before Henry struck again to take Shehzad, who played the only reckless stroke that resulted in a straightforward catch to Williamson. The slide began when Umar Akmal also perished to a poor shot and although Haris Sohail carried on with a brave 65, the asking-rate shot up. Henry completed his first ever 5-wicket haul in ODIs, when he got rid of Sarfraz Ahmed and Shahid Afridi. Pakistan were bowled out for 207 in the 44th over and New Zealand scored an easy victory compared to the fighting tussle of the fourth ODI.
Two days back on the same ground, New Zealand batted first and scored 299/5. Williamson had led the charge with a 105-ball 123 but every New Zealand batsman scored in that match. Although 300 runs on the dead Abu Dhabi Pitch made the chase difficult, Pakistan went after the target creditably. Despite early loss of wickets, Younis Khan came with a brilliant century. After Umar Akmal made useful contribution, Shahid Afridi blasted New-Zealand bowlers to score 49 off 25 balls. The assault made New Zealand bowlers lose their line and Pakistan inched closer to the target. But once Afridi got out, New Zealand saw their chance and pressurized Pakistani batsmen. In the end, Pakistan fell short by 7 runs and New-Zealand squared the series 2-2.
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