Haris Rauf=s superb bowling followed by Asif Ali and Shoaib Maliks late blitz helped Pakistan beat New Zealand by five wickets in a Super 12 match of the ICC Men=s T20 World Cup 2021 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, here on Tuesday.

The victory sends Pakistan back above Afghanistan to the top of Group 2 with two wins from two matches in the tournament.

A sensational bowling performance by Haris Rauf, (4/22) helped Pakistan restrict New Zealand to 134/8 in 20 overs. Apart from Rauf, fellow pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, Imad Wasim, and Hafeez picked up a wicket each on the sluggish pitch at Sharjah.

Chasing the target, Pakistan openers Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan picked up where they left off against India, controlling the powerplay and seemingly sealing the chase. But, Tim Southee gave New Zealand a sniff when he bowled the Pakistan captain for nine.

Fakhar Zaman, who came to bat next, didn=t look in great touch. His scratchy innings came to a close with 11 off 17 when he was trapped in front by Ish Sodhi. Then, a dangerous Mohammad Hafeez looked intent on getting the chase over in a hurry as he raced to 11 off just five balls.

But, the match swung when Hafeez lofted his sixth ball to the long-off boundary where he was sensationally caught by a diving Conway in the catch of the tournament so far’ Pakistan=s chances of victory took another substantial blow when Rizwan fell to Sodhi with the target still 66 runs away and with the top four all back in the dugout.

However, Pakistan batsmen didn=t give up, with Ali particularly being more aggressive, slamming three sixes in his 27 off just 12 balls. Malik finished with a similarly crucial 27 (20), but it was his partner who hit the winning runs, banging his third six over wide long-on off Trent Boult before rolling a two to a similar area to seal the win in the penultimate over.

Earlier, batting first, New Zealand were off to a slow start. They were 42-1 after the end of powerplay with opener Martin Guptill (17) back in the pavilion.

Another Kiwi opener Daryl Mitchellc (27) also struggled to score freely and was dismissed by Imad Wasim in the 9th over of the innings. Jimmy Neesham=s visit to the middle lasted just two deliveries as Hafeez got rid of him to leave New Zealand 60/3 at the midway point of the innings.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson hit a few boundaries and he along with Devon Conway built a partnership and tried to revive the innings. The Black Caps were recovering well but a direct hit from Hasan Ali caught Williamson short of his crease, leaving the Kiwis in trouble at 90/4 after 13.1 overs.

After Williamson=s departure, New Zealand=s innings never got the momentum and they kept on losing wickets at regular intervals. Devon Conway, who looked in good touch, was the next one to depart after scoring 27 of 24.

The next batsmen — Glenn Phillips (13), Tim Seifert (8), Mitchell Santner (6) didn=t contribute much as Pakistan bowlers kept New Zealand in check by taking wickets periodically. In the end, New Zealand were restricted to 134-8 in 20 overs.

Brief scores:

New Zealand 134-8 in 20 overs (Daryl Mitchell 27, Devon Conway 27; Haris Rauf 4/22) lost to Pakistan 135-5 in 18.4 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 33, Asif Ali 27*; Ish Sodhi 2/28)

–IANS

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