WT20 : New Zealand Reach Semi-Finals, with a third win in three games
Sharjeel Khan’s blitz gives Pakistan hope, but it sinks to 22-run defeat after failing to fire in the middle overs
Pakistan needed 181 against New Zealand in a must-win Super 10 Group 2 game of the ICC World Twenty20 2016, and started strongly through Sharjeel Khan’s 25-ball 47 to reach 76 for 1 in seven overs. That is when Kane Williamson introduced Ish Sodhi to produce the match’s defining phase.
Sodhi, playing his first international match in the state that he was born, came on the back of a strong reputation built around his work in the wins over India and Australia. The leg-spinner lived up to his billing to not only finish with the wicket of the dangerous looking Shahid Afridi and concede only 25 runs from his four overs, but also created enough pressure for Mitchell Santner to pick up two wickets and strangle Pakistan to a 22-run defeat.
When Sodhi was done displaying his skills in front of an almost full house, Pakistan needed 52 in 24 balls with six wickets in hand. But Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik could hardly find the gaps, as Pakistan failed to hit a boundary in its last 31 balls and finished on 158 for 5. With its third consecutive win, New Zealand became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals.
Before Sodhi’s heroics, New Zealand had ridden on Martin Guptill’s 48-ball 80 to make 180 for 5 after winning the toss on a placid track.
Guptill’s knock was laced with powerful hits to all corners of the ground. He lofted a length ball from Mohammad Irfan into the sightscreen for his first six in the second over of the game, and there was no looking back after that. When the Pakistan bowlers pulled their length back, both Guptill and Williamson collected easy fours square of the wicket.
Guptill then hit another straight six off Mohammad Sami, and the duo had put on 64 runs for the opening wicket, when Irfan, in his second spell, rolled his fingers over the ball for Williamson to give an easy catch to Afridi at cover. Not long after that, Colin Munro’s switch-hit in Afridi’s first over only resulted in Khalid Latif taking an easy catch at deep cover.
Pakistan seemed to have pulled things back, but New Zealand again seized the momentum with a 52-run stand between Guptill andCorey Anderson in just 5.4 overs. Guptill scored 35 of those runs. It was a cat and mouse game going on between Guptill and Pakistan, as he hit most of his shots in the gaps, leaving the fielders frustrated.
Sami returned in the 15th over and struck when Guptill tried to dab him to third man, but managed to only play on. It was the opening Pakistan was after, as it conceded just three fours and two sixes in the last five overs with some excellent bowling even though Ross Taylor made an unbeaten 36 in 23 balls.
Pakistan would have been confident in the innings break, as the only time a T20 International had been played at the venue before this game was in December 2009 when India had chased down 207.
Sharjeel showed intent as he hit five fours in the first two overs to get everyone excited. But Adam Milne had him caught slicing a full delivery at point in the sixth over before Sodhi started spinning his web.
Pakistan now plays Australia at the same venue on March 25, a match both teams must win to have a chance of qualifying for the knockouts along with New Zealand.