DUBAI: Pakistan slumped to a 17-run defeat in the second Twenty20 International in Dubai to share the Twenty20 series with New Zealand 1-1 on Friday.
Set a challenging 145-run target, Pakistan lost wickets at regular intervals to be bowled out with seven deliveries still remaining. Only young opener Ahmed Shehzad (33) making a comeback from head injury and captain Shahid Afridi (28) were the ones to have stayed long enough to raise any hopes of a resurrection from a double setback in the initial overs.
Pakistan won the first match, also played at the same venue the day before, by an emphatic seven-wicket margin.
With New Zealand bowling possessing greater poise and precision, this time round the chase was somewhat chaotic, with pace bowlers Jimmy Neesham and Kyle Mills returning with almost identical figures of three scalps apiece for 25 and 26 runs respectively.
Though the pacers didn’t allow the pressure to be released at any point, it was bearded left-arm spinner Anton Devcich (2-16). He rattled the greenshirts by dismissing the in-form Sarfraz Ahmed in the very first over of the innings for just one, an unfortunate decision as Hawkeye showing it to be a wicket and a half down the leg side. Ahmed had made 76 not out in the first game, a man of the match performance.
Hafeez (nine) perished to an innocuous delivery after hitting two fours in the previous over, followed by Haris Sohail (three). Pakistan were struggling at 24-3 before Shehzad added 40 for the fourth wicket with Saad Nasim (19).
When Afridi came on the crease the asking rate was already in double figures, and though his two huge sixes off spinner Daniel Vettori energized the boisterous holiday crowd, once he was caught behind off Neesham with 24 needed in the last two overs, without his presence the order seemed rather tall.
Mills wrapped up the innings with wickets of Umar Gul (nought) and Sohail Tanvir (11) to give his team victory.
New Zealand were given a solid start of 49 by skipper Kane Williamson (32, in 31 deliveries, three fours, one six) and Devcich (21) but Hafeez (1-20) and Shahid Afridi (2-33) put the brakes with three quick wickets.
It was left to Luke Ronchi (31) and Tom Latham (26) to lift the innings in the final overs during their 38-run fifth wicket stand. Ronchi hit two towering sixes in one Afridi over and another boundary during his 19-ball cameo.
Playing his first match since April this year due to knee injury, Gul finished with 2-24 in his four overs. Besides Gul, Shehzad also returned to the team, with Awaiz Zia and Mohammad Irfan dropping out.
New Zealand made four changes from the first match, bringing in Tom Latham, Dean Brownlie, Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills in place of Corey Anderson, Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne.
The two teams now play a five-match one-day series, the first of these in Dubai on Monday.