Mohali: Pakistan showed no signs of bouncing back emphatically after their recent defeat to India as they went down in convincing fashion to New Zealand - by 22 runs - in their crucial World T20 tie at the PCA Stadium here yesterday.
New Zealand players celebrate the wicket of Pakistani opener Sharjeel Khan during their ICC World T20 match in Mohali on Tuesday. Pic/PTI
With a power-packed opening stand, Pakistan looked well on course to chase down 181-run target, but a shoddy batting display by the middle order has made the task of qualifying for the semi-final a very difficult one. However, in the process, New Zealand clinched their Last Four spot with their third consecutive win. Martin Guptill was awarded the Man of the Match honour for his 48-ball 80.
Sharjeel Khan lived up to the high hopes Shahid Afridi had of him ever since the southpaw impressed the Pakistan skipper in the Pakistan Super League. The 26-year-old provided just the kind of start his team would have wanted in chasing New Zealand's 180-5.
The crowd got a first-hand experience of Sharjeel's brute power when he slammed spinner Mitchell Santner for three fours in the opening over of the innings. He was particularly brutal against Mitchell McClenaghan in his first over itself, scoring 18 runs off it. Every time the Kiwi pacer pitched in short, Sharjeel took position quickly and hit the ball swiftly like we do in Stick Cricket. Pakistan scored 66 runs in the Powerplay overs – their best ever in T20 Internationals.
However, with Sharjeel's dismissal, three runs short of his half-century, it seemed as if the fire which was about to turn into a blaze was suddenly doused. Pakistan's run rate took a severe beating as they added only 30 runs in the next six overs after the Powerplay. Afridi revived hopes with a 9-ball 19 cameo that included two boundaries and a six. But NZ spinners Santner (2-29) and Ish Sodhi (1-25) complemented each other well to tie down the Pakistani batsmen.
Earlier, New Zealand's innings revolved around Guptill's blasts all-round the park. After seeing off Mohammad Amir's first over where he conceded only one run, Guptill took him to the cleaners in his second over, scoring 13 off it, forcing skipper Afridi to remove him from the attack. Amir went on to concede 27 runs in his next two overs.
Guptill finding his lost touch again was crucial for New Zealand's World T20 campaign as the opener did not let the pressure of losing Kane Williamson (17) and Colin Munro (7), who departed in successive overs, get to him.
Guptill's lofty shots and delightful cuts were a treat to watch. He looked set to reach the three-figure mark, but was bowled by Mohd Sami, the pick of the Pakistan bowlers with 2-23, trying to dab it to third man.
Amir was brought back into the attack in the 17th over, but this time Ross Taylor (36 not out off 23 balls) did not spare him as the Kiwi star scored 11 runs in the over. In the final over, Amir conceded 16 runs – the most expensive over of the innings – to post a total which at one point looked doubtful.
New Zealand: 180/5 in 20 overs (Martin Guptill 80, Ross Taylor 36 not out; Mohammad Sami 2/23, Shahid Afridi 2/40).
Pakistan: 158/5 in 20 overs (Sharjeel Khan 47, Ahmed Shehzad 30; Adam Milne 2/26, Mitchell Santner 2/29).
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