Pakistan and New Zealand have been equally matched in their various contests in UAE since the first week of November. After Pakistan won the first test, the two teams had a drawn second test but New Zealand came back strongly in the third test to amass 690, powered by skipper McCullum’s 188-ball 202 and Kane Williamson’s 192. The blitz followed Pakistan’s first innings of 351, compiled on the strength of Mohammad Hafeez’s industrious 197. But the lead of 339 was too much for Pakistan and despite efforts by Asad Shafiq, who scored a century in the second innings, Pakistan lost by an innings and 80 runs. The third test also saw the recall of veteran Daniel Vettori to test cricket after nearly 2½ years and he was delighted to be part of the victorious side. The two teams then played a couple of T20 games on December 4 & 5. After Pakistan won the first game by 7 wickets, New Zealand squared the series by taking the next by 17 runs. The ODI series began with a thriller in Dubai on December 8 that Pakistan won in the last over but New-Zealand leveled up by winning the second at Sharjah by 4 wickets. In the third ODI, Pakistan displayed powerful batting form and piled up 364/7, their third highest score in the format. It was also the highest total ever at Sharjah ground, which has seen 218 matches so far. The target of 365 was too daunting for the Kiwis, who succumbed to 217 and handed a massive 147-run victory to Pakistan. With Misbah-ul-Haq down with hamstring injury, Pakistanis were led by old guard Shahid Afridi. Incidentally, Afridi has been playing his part in Pakistan’s various games in UAE but in the third ODI, he had stellar role to play, apart from taking command of the side. Ahmed Shehzad had already scored a century earlier but Afridi blasted a 26-ball 55 to consolidate later in the innings. When New Zealand batted, Afridi scalped three Kiwi wickets yielding only 37 runs in 9.2 overs. The New-Zealanders will conclude their tour with last two ODI games, both of which are scheduled to be played at Abu Dhabi on December 17 and 19.
Pakistan decided to bat first after winning the toss. After an incredible performance in the test-series, Mohammad Hafeez comfortably got under the ODI-skin and showed his talent in transformation. Opening with Ahmed Shehzad, Hafeez scored a quick-fire 33 off 26 balls and when he departed as the first wicket for Pakistan, the total was 63 in 7.5 overs. Afterwards, Younis Khan and Shehzad were involved in the 70-run partnership and Pakistan reached 133 in 22 overs. Another 77 runs came in the next 15 overs but Pakistan lost two wickets at the same score of 210. But Afridi had arrived in the middle and he coaxed his batsmen to go for the jugular. Pakistan reached 250 in 41.1 overs and broke open to mount the assault further. The next four overs yielded 50 runs as Pakistan reached 300 in 45.1 overs. There were cameos from Haris Sohail and Sarfraz Ahmed. Afridi and Sohail added 89 in 46 balls and with Tanvir hitting a 9-ball 17, Pakistan’s last 10 overs were worth 125 runs. After 50 overs, Pakistan reached a monumental 364/7.
New Zealand began disastrously losing 2 wickets for just 21 runs in 6th over. But Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor hit up 46 in the next 7 overs before Taylor was bowled by Shahid Afridi for 31. Williamson carried on with Tom Latham and the two carried the score to 115, when Williamson lost his wicket. After that, none of the New-Zealand batsmen, except Luke Ronchi, showed any enterprise and the wickets kept falling at regular intervals. Ronchi bravely stood up in scoring a 40-ball 41 before he too was bowled by Afridi. New Zealand lost all their wickets for 217 in 38.2 overs. Afridi returned with match figures of 3/37 in 9.2 overs. Afridi hardly made a wrong move in the match beginning with the toss that he won. He batted well, bowled with guile and also snapped a couple of catches. For Ahmed Shehzad, who was declared the player of the match, it was a great outing. The man showed great poise and searched for quick singles to keep up the strike rate. He got 41 of them and when he drove to the boundaries, his shots looked like those depicted in cricketing books. On no occasion during his 120-ball stay at the crease, did he attempt lofted shots and when he was the third man out, Pakistan had already reached 210.
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