After landmark 500th win, Pakistan look for more in second New Zealand ODI

After landmark 500th win, Pakistan look for more in second New Zealand ODI

RAWALPINDI: After overseeing Pakistan’s 500th victory in the One-day International format on Thursday, captain Babar Azam lavished praise on the way his side controlled the game to draw first blood in the five-match series against New Zealand.

With their five-wicket triumph over the Black Caps at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Pakistan became only the third cricketing nation to reach the landmark. It came in their 949th one-dayer, making them the second quickest after Australia to achieve the feat.

In the second ODI, also at in Rawalpindi, on Saturday, the hosts will look to build on that victory to further embellish their lead in the series but they will be mindful of the fact that New Zealand came back from 2-0 down to level the preceding five-game Twenty20 series 2-2.

Pressing home their advantage, therefore, will be crucial for Pakistan. They can’t afford to give the visitors any chance, any opening. In Thursday’s game, they did exactly that with opener Fakhar Zaman’s ninth ODI hundred trumping a similar effort by New Zealand’s Daryl Mitchell.

Mitchell smashed 113 off 115 deliveries to help New Zealand post 288-7 with Pakistan’s pacers, especially Naseem Shah, doing well in the end to restrict them under 300. Fakhar’s 117 was the standout effort in the chase even though his fellow opener Imam-ul-Haq, Babar and Mohammad Rizwan chipped in with good runs.

“This was a team effort, we wanted to start [the series] well,” Babar said. “Credit goes to the fast bowlers for the way we restricted them in the end. It feels good to see players execute their plans. The way Naseem bowled put the pressure on them and then Fakhar played a solid match-winning knock. The way Fakhar and Imam played, then the innings Fakhar and I built together, was great.”

Fakhar and Imam (60) put on 124 for the first wicket and Pakistan were carried further towards the target by a 90-run stand between the opener and Babar (49). New Zealand hit back late when Adam Milne removed Babar and Shan Masood with Fakhar bringing Pakistan within 34 runs of victory before being dismissed but Mohammad Rizwan led the victory charge with a brisk unbeaten 42.

“The plan was to attack and stay long,” said Fakhar, who was named Player-of –the-Match. “If you survive the new ball, you must stay [till the end]. The idea was to have at least one of the top three batters to bat deep. Today was my day and hopefully, Imam and Babar will also play big knocks.”

At the post-match news conference, Fakhar said he enjoyed a good rapport with his opening partner Imam both on and off the pitch.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a more confident player than Imam,” said Fakhar. “We enjoy being with each other on the field and off the field as well. Now we have also got an understanding of each other’s game and when he makes a mistake I let him know right away, and its vice versa.”

Questions inevitably shifted to the T20 series where Pakistan lost the third and fifth games to let slip the chance of a series victory. Fakhar was forced to defend the fact that he plays one-drop in the shortest format of the game for Pakistan.

“It’s true that I’ve played most of my cricket as an opener,” he noted, before adding that “one has to understand the team’s situation”.

“I think I can hit spinners better than [regular T20 openers] Babar and Rizwan. A team combination requires at least two left-handers in the middle-order and I think the way Babar and Rizwan are playing, there’s no need to change it.”

New Zealand failed to maintain the momentum from the T20 series and skipper Tom Latham rued his team’s inability to get an early breakthrough.

“I think the score we got was about par,” said Latham. “Daryl played a superb innings. The wicket got harder for new guys, but the way Pakistan played was superb. We couldn’t make any inroads. It [the wicket] got harder in the end but the two partnerships up top from Pakistan made the difference.”

Mitchell to believed New Zealand managed a “par score” batting first on a low wicket.

“Pakistan have got some world-class bowlers and they showed that at the end there with their death bowling,” he told reporters. “..also the way Pakistan batted tonight was pretty special and put us under pressure at times and they always kept the rate in check. Fakhar was dangerous, he took the game on at times, took some risks and he obviously got the rewards for that.”

He added that New Zealand would try their best to get back at Pakistan and spoke about the side trying to adapt to conditions here.

“We’ve played them a number of times now obviously coming over here is a totally different challenge for us Kiwis compared to what we’re used to back home in terms of the reverse swing and the lower wickets so again it’s just about us constantly improving and trying to get better each day,” he said.

“I guess the surface here dictates how you want to play and for us as Kiwis we’re just constantly trying to adapt to the kind of surface we see and the different format of one-day cricket. We know the blueprint that we want to play one-day cricket in the style that we want to play as Kiwis and we’ll keep trying to show up and do that with a smile on our face.”

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2023

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