Pakistan’s Last Stand: Iftikhar’s Heroic 94 Not Enough to Stop New Zealand
Iftikhar made a heroic 94 not out to keep Pakistan in the game, but it wasn’t enough as the hosts won the series 4-1 and New Zealand denies Pakistan in the final ODI.
Babar Azam was struck out on Henry Shipley’s first pitch.
Pakistan 252 all out (Iftikhar 94*, Salman 57, Shipley 3-34, Ravindra 3-65) was defeated by New Zealand 299 all out (Young 87, Latham 59, Afridi 3-46) by 47 runs.
It all turned out to be one step too far for Pakistan. In the final ODI of the five-match series and the last game of their most extended home season in a generation, Pakistan suffered a 47-run defeat due to one lacklustre outing with the bat and a stretch of smothering excellence by Henry Shipley. The final score was 4-1 for Pakistan.
Will Young and Tom Latham’s half-centuries had given New Zealand 299 to defend. Still, Pakistan’s disastrous first ten overs saw them lose wickets and struggle to score runs, setting them on an unstoppable trajectory. With a 97-run partnership in the middle, Iftikhar Ahmed and Agha Salman offered some optimism, but there wasn’t much more after that, as they were bowled out for 252. It prevents New Zealand from losing a series, but Pakistan loses the top spot they attained for the first time 48 hours earlier.
A poor starting point
In a poor start to the chase, Pakistan created their issues. While Fakhar Zaman and Shan Masood struggled to find their groove, Adam Milne and Matt Henry were thrifty. In the first five overs, 12 runs were scored, and while Fakhar could hit a couple of fours to break the chain, Masood could not. When attempting to cut across the line after grinding to a 20-ball 7, he was unsuccessful in the eighth over after chopping onto a far too-tight ball.
But calamity struck when Latham gave Shipley the ball in the next over. Babar Azam has won praise for his scary consistency, yet in his 100th ODI, he only faced five deliveries. Shipley’s first ball resulted in a sloppy shot cut right to the backward point, setting out boisterous New Zealand celebrations and shocking Karachi into quiet.
After that, even Fakhar seemed restrained, and neither he nor Mohammed Rizwan ever appeared utterly credible. Soon after, Shipley caught the wicketkeeper-batter in front, and Fakhar’s difficulties grew. After facing 45 balls, Rachin Ravindra eventually put him out of his misery for a tedious 64-ball 33; he has never had a lower strike rate.
Pakistan’s middle order is frequently considered fragile, but they will take solace in the resistance those batters put up today. With their brilliant partnership, Iftikhar and Salman did minor damage to their World Cup aspirations while attacking a New Zealand bowling lineup with the top four on the ropes. They should have prioritised preserving the wicket so they would stay calm. Although there were a few missed opportunities, the visitors knew the game was still playing as Salman pulled up a 46-ball 50.
Perhaps surprisingly, Shipley ended the partnership by coaxing Salman into a hasty off drive that failed to clear Latham at mid-off. After then, Iftikhar was on his own against the rest of the world, with little help from the other side. Usama Mir and Shadab Khan had good intentions but lacked Iftikhar’s stamina. Ravindra returned to clean up the mess, taking out Mir and Shaheen Afridi in one over. Iftikhar shouted furiously at the other end, but Pakistan’s failure would result from the requirement to maintain the strike, with Haris being run out at the non-striker’s end. Iftikhar was upset and was only six runs away from reaching his first ODI hundred when it happened.
Will Young scored an 87 on 91 balls.
Leading New Zealand to 299 are Young and Latham.
Young and Latham had earlier established New Zealand, but Pakistan’s sharp, wicket-taking bowling later toppled that foundation from under their feet. Through the first half, Young’s flamboyant 91-ball 87 had put his team in the lead, while Mark Chapman’s lightning-quick 33-ball 43 had boosted the innings. However, Shadab and Mir scored twice at crucial times to bowl out New Zealand, and as the fast bowlers came in at the very end, the visitors’ final score of 299 was more of a stutter than a sprint.
Despite making the proper selection for the third time, Latham decided to bat first this time, only for Pakistan to restrain the hitters during the opening powerplay. Tom Blundell holed out cheaply after a hasty, careless shot—a whip off the pads off Rauf’s bowling. Henry Nicholls and Young put up a solid 51-run stand, but that was all it was, and there was never any genuine prospect of things picking up. The best phase of play for New Zealand didn’t start until Mir let him go.
One hundred thirty runs were scored in the following 19 overs.
The Latham-Young stance was the stand that initially stood out. Young reached his third ODI half-century as his confidence and shotmaking improved. Before Young started going after him in his fourth over, Shadab was dispatched for a four and a six over the onside. With Latham at ease at the other end and a six over cover, the shot of the innings, followed by another boundary over the offside, New Zealand denies Pakistan and were cruising along.
Young fell when a beautiful ball from Shadab spun away and kissed his outside edge, but the run scoring was unabated. When Chapman savaged Agha Salman in an over during which he plucked 22, New Zealand was set up at 206 for 3 with 14 overs remaining, and Chapman had raced along to 43 off 33, a significant score appeared to be in the cards.
The turning point, however, resulted from an unfortunate dismissal, a missed sweep in which the ball tickled his gloves on the follow-through, and a magnificent catch by Rizwan, who was superb throughout the game. Just 83 runs would be scored in the final 14 overs as all seven of New Zealand’s wickets were lost, and they were all bowled out in the 50th over. Latham and Cole McConchie appeared to be able to carry on the attack, but neither could.
A Mir strike took out Latham, and McConchie was replaced by Afridi for barely a cameo.
The absence of batting strength in the bottom order for New Zealand was abruptly revealed, and Ravindra was left to contribute the majority of the runs. He would struggle mightily to do so until Rauf, too, eliminated him for a 20-ball 28. At the other end, wickets continued tumbling. The final wicket fell with three balls remaining as an immediate smash caught Ish Sodhi well short of his ground, leaving New Zealand nine down.
To have something to show for this ODI series, New Zealand knew their bowlers would have to perform above and above expectations. Their finest performance on the entire trip proved that a depleted New Zealand had persevered to the bitter end. Read more cricket news here at IPLWin India.