Pakistan v New Zealand, 1st T20, Dubai Sarfraz 76* steers Pakistan into 1-0 lead

Opening for the first time in a T20 international, Sarfraz Ahmed made a breezy unbeaten 76 to steer Pakistan to a seven-wicket win over New Zealand at the Dubai International Stadium. Sarfraz put on 51 with Awais Zia for the first wicket, and an unbroken 43 with Umar Akmal for the fourth wicket, to take Pakistan past their target of 136 with five balls remaining, Akmal ending the contest with a straight six off James Neesham.

Corey Anderson's 48 was the bright spot in a sub-par New Zealand innings © AFP

Corey Anderson’s 48 was the bright spot in a sub-par New Zealand innings © AFP

ent in to bat, New Zealand had two good partnerships in the middle part of their innings, with Corey Anderson involved in both, but struggled either side of them. Their total was at least 15 short of being genuinely challenging, even if Pakistan kept the game interesting by losing two wickets to run-outs.

Sarfraz had only batted once in his four previous T20 games for Pakistan, at number eight, and he quickly set about showing what a waste of talent that had been, slapping Mitchell McClenaghan to the point boundary and stepping down the track to the debutant fast bowler Matt Henry and sweeping him over the deep backward square boundary.

At the other end, Awais Zia looked a little leaden-footed against the pace of Henry and Adam Milne, but quickly realised he would be best served giving Sarfraz the strike. The pair brought up Pakistan’s first half-century opening stand in 18 matches before lazy running brought about its end at the start of the ninth over.

Zia poked Nathan McCullum into the covers, and hesitated a fraction of a second before deciding to go for the single. A full stretch would have gotten Zia to the crease before McCullum diverted Anton Devcich’s slightly wide throw onto the stumps, but he grounded his bat with his arm bent at the elbow, and replays showed his bat to be right on the line when the bails went off. When Luke Ronchi threw out Mohammad Hafeez an over later, when the batsmen unwisely tried to pinch a leg-bye off a fumble, Pakistan were in a bit of a bother.

Sarfraz, though, wasn’t letting the wickets disrupt his flow. He immediately crashed Corey Anderson for successive fours, and slogged him for a six over cow corner to bring up his half-century. That over brought Pakistan 17 runs, and brought the equation down to 59 required off 54 balls.

Sarfraz simply needed someone to stay with him and Haris Sohail seemed to be doing that before he swiped McClenaghan straight to the short midwicket fielder with Pakistan still 39 short of their target. Umar Akmal came in, having missed out on Pakistan’s recent Test upsurge, and instantly reminded fans of what they had been missing. Henry returned to bowl the 16th over, and Akmal took three fours off that over, the middle one a sweet pick-up shot over wide long-on, and it was a canter from there on.

Sent in to bat, New Zealand lost three wickets in their first three overs, each to a different bowler. Anwar Ali and Sohail Tanvir trapped Kane Williamson and Anton Devcich lbw, respectively, before Mohammad Irfan then consumed Ross Taylor with one that lifted from just back of a length and popped off the shoulder of the bat to point.

Martin Guptill and Corey Anderson rebuilt the innings, picking up a boundary roughly every other over and putting on 46 off 41 balls. Guptill picked up two fours and a clipped six off Tanvir that clattered into the upper-tier railings, and made 32 before Shahid Afridi bowled him through the gate with a slightly slower ball.

New Zealand entered their most productive period after the dismissal, with Anderson and Luke Ronchi bringing up their half-century partnership off just 32 balls. Anderson’s effortless power was in full evidence, particularly when he pulled Anwar for two flat sixes in the 13th over, and Ronchi was timing his drives through and over extra cover quite exquisitely.

At 110 for 4 at the end of the 15th over, New Zealand looked set for 150 at least, but their scoring stalled once Anderson miscued a pull to deep midwicket two short of 50. Irfan and Tanvir varied their pace expertly in the last two overs, giving away just nine runs between them and dismissing James Neesham and Ronchi in the process. New Zealand found the boundary only once in their last five overs, and even that came off the bottom-edge. (ESPNcricinfo)