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Sublime Sarfraz lifts Pakistan to T20 win

DUBAI: Sent in as an opener for the first time ever, Sarfraz Ahmed made a career-best unconquered 76 off 64 deliveries to anchor Pakistan’s clinical run chase for an emphatic seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the first of the two Twenty20 Internationals at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday.

On a fresh-looking Dubai Stadium pitch, Pakistan won the toss and opted to bowl first. But more importantly Pakistan’s combination of pace and spin six-pack attack got amongst the wickets from the go, restricting the Black Caps to a modest 135-7 in their 20 overs before Sarfraz’d well-crafted knock 76, with eight fours and two sixes its principal scoring shots, took them past the post with aplomb as Umar Akmal lofted Jimmy Neesham for a high and handsome six.

The second and final Twenty20 will also be played in Dubai on Friday.

Sarfraz added a brisk 51 for the first wicket with Awaiz Zia (20 with two boundaries) and then continued the good work with a dominating 43-run stand for the fourth wicket with Umar Akmal, who consumed 24 deliveries for his 27 not out.

In between Pakistan lost Mohammad Hafeez (two) and Haris Sohail (11) but Sarfraz kept one end intact and bettered his previous best of just five in his previous four T20Is.

New Zealand owed their total to a career best 37-ball 48 by Corey Anderson, lifting his team from a precarious 15-3 with a 46-run stand for the fourth wicket with Martin Guptill (32) and another 51 for the fifth wicket with Luke Ronchi (32).

Anderson hit four huge sixes and a boundary off 37 balls, bettering his previous highest of 20 not out he made against the Netherlands in Chittagong earlier this year after New Zealand had lost stand-in skipper Kane Williamson for a first-ball duck and Ross Taylor for just four.

Pakistan's two left-arm pacers Sohail Tanvir (2-24) and Mohammad Irfan (2-27) shared the bowling honours while Afridi, Raza Hasan and Anwar Ali chipped in with a wicket apiece.

New Zealand were without their regular skipper Brendon McCullum who along with paceman Trent Boult and Tim Southee left for home after the drawn 1-1 Test series.

Both teams also play a five-match one-day series, the first of which will be played in Dubai on Monday.