Karachi, 3 May 2023: Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam stitched ninth century partnership as Pakistan defeated New Zealand by 26 runs to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series to stay on course to top the ICC ODI Team Rankings for the first time.
The two lads added 108 runs for the second wicket off 121 balls as Pakistan, put into bat, posted 287 for six on a slow surface. In turn, New Zealand capitulated after a solid and positive 83-run first wicket stand to be bowled out for 261 in 49.1 overs.
With the series now in the bag, their first against New Zealand in 12 years, Pakistan will attempt to win the remaining two matches on Friday and Sunday so that they can vault from fifth to first on the ICC ODI Team Rankings. If this happens, this will be the first time Pakistan will achieve the number-one rankings, bettering their number-three ranking they had achieved in January 2007.
Imam and Babar were dismissed in identical ways – both dragging Matt Henry and Adam Milne's deliveries onto their stumps. Imam was the fourth batter dismissed after scoring a watchful 90 from 107 balls with seven fours and six, while Babar struck three fours and a six in his 62-ball 54.
The two had joined hands after Fakhar Zaman, who earlier in the day was named as the number-two ranked ODI batter in the world, was back in the hut after scoring a 26-ball 19 with four fours.
Mohammad Rizwan (32) and Salman Ali Agha (31) added 54 runs off 48 balls for the fifth wicket to give an impetus to the innings, which ended with a 10-ball 21 not out by Shadab Khan. The Pakistan vice-captain hit a four and two sixes, including a last-ball six.
Pakistan scored 82 runs for the loss of two wickets in the last 10 overs, including 46 runs for two wickets in five overs.
In their run-chase, New Zealand raced to 99 for one after 20 overs before Pakistan bowlers put the brakes on the scoring-rate, allowing New Zealand to score 92 runs in the next 20 overs. This meant the visitors needed 97 runs in the last 10 overs and despite fielding lapses, this proved to be a tough task as they managed only 70 runs to be dismissed for 261 in 49.1 overs.
Opener Tom Blundell struck 78-ball 65 with seven fours featured in three useful partnerships. After adding 83 runs for the first wicket with Will Young (33), he added 30 runs from 40 balls for the second wicket with Daryl Mitchell (21) and 14 runs for the third wicket in 21 balls with Tom Latham (45).
Debutant Cole McConchie scored 64 not out (45 balls, six fours, two sixes) and put on 25 runs (34 balls) for the sixth wicket with Latham, 31 runs (21 balls) for the seventh wicket with Adam Milne, 19 runs (14 balls) for the eighth wicket with Henry Shipley and 12 runs (9 balls) for the ninth wicket with Ish Sodhi.
For Pakistan, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim Junior and Shaheen Shah Afridi took two wickets apiece.
Scores in brief
Pakistan won by 26 runs, 3rd ODI.
Pakistan 287-6, 50 overs (Imam-ul-Haq 90, Babar Azam 54, Mohammad Rizwan 32, Salman Ali Agha 31, Shadab Khan 21 not out; Matt Henry 3-54)
New Zealand 261 all-out, 49.1 overs (Tom Blundell 65, Cole McConchie 64 not out, Tom Latham 45, Will Young 33, Daryl Mitchell 21; Naseem Shah 2-42, Mohammad Wasim Junior 2-50, Shaheen Shah Afridi 2-53)
Player of the match – Imam-ul-Haq (Pakistan)