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Mohammad Nawaz, Haider Ali’s cameos clinch tri-series with stunning counterattack

An audacious assault from Haider Ali and Mohammad Nawaz blindsided New Zealand and gave Pakistan the tri-series title in Christchurch. Their stand included smashing 33 in eight balls starting from the 15th over to offset a powerplay slowdown and help Pakistan chase down 164. Though Haider and Asif Ali holed out at the death, Nawaz coolly closed out the game for Pakistan for the second day in a row, along with Ifthikar Ahmed.After having hit an unbeaten 45 off 20 balls at No. 4 against Bangladesh on Thursday, Nawaz stepped up with an unbeaten 38 off 22 balls as a pinch-hitting No. 4 once again, offering Pakistan a great deal of flexibility for the T20 World Cup in Australia to immediately follow.

Pakistan were 74 for 3 in the 12th over when Nawaz and Haider got together. Michael Bracewell had completed another misery spell, picking up 2 for 14 in his four overs. Haider, however, launched the first ball he faced from Ish Sodhi for six and then combined with Nawaz to take 25 runs off Sodhi in the 15th over. From thereon, there was only one result possible, and that was Pakistan winning their last T20I before heading for the World Cup.

After New Zealand had been asked to bat, their captain Kane Williamson found form with a 33-ball half-century. However, Haris Rauf, who was featuring in his 50th T20I, handcuffed New Zealand in the end overs with his variations, coming away with 2 for 22 in his four overs. New Zealand managed only 33 for 4 in their last five overs, a passage of play which eventually proved decisive.

Before Friday, Williamson had last scored a T20 fifty in April, when he opened the batting for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. His niggly elbow has also disrupted his rhythm in the recent past. After being rested for the previous match against Bangladesh, Williamson showed signs of his best during an innings of 59 from 38 balls.

He dashed out of the blocks with four fours in his first five balls and continued to show attacking intent against spin. Williamson charged at Nawaz and pumped him into the sightscreen for six, and even attempted a reverse sweep off Shadab Khan. He struck up a 50-run partnership with Glenn Phillips off 37 balls after New Zealand had lost Finn Allen and Devon Conway in the powerplay.

Rauf, who replaced Mohammad Hasnain, got to work in the powerplay by digging one into the pitch and having Conway chopping on for 14 off 17 deliveries. He then splintered the toe of Phillips’ bat by cranking his pace up to 143kph. Rauf not only hustled batters for pace at the death but also dared them to manufacture it for themselves by bowling cutters into the pitch. His last two overs cost Pakistan just seven runs. At the other end, Naseem Shah backed Rauf up with his slower legcutter and on-pace yorkers.

After Tim Southee – playing his 100th T20I – and Trent Boult conceded a combined 19 runs in the first two overs, Williamson threw the new ball to Bracewell. The offspinner drew a top edge from Babar Azam and had him skying a catch to Wiliamson at midwicket. Bracewell then won his match-up against the left-hander Shan Masood, leaving Pakistan at 64 for 2 in the 11th over. He ended the series with eight wickets at an incredible economy rate of 4.94, strengthening his case for a spot in New Zealand’s World Cup XI.

In the next over, Sodhi pinned Rizwan lbw for 34 off 29 balls. Haider and Nawaz, though, changed the mood and tempo of the game with a whirlwind 56-run fourth-wicket stand off only 26 balls.

Nawaz fulfilled his role as the spin-hitter, the same one that Shadab had played for Pakistan in the early exchanges of the tournament. After smoking Sodhi for back-to-back sixes, Nawaz also swatted the inexperienced seamer Blair Tickner into the grassbanks to rush Pakistan home.In the absence of both Lockie Ferguson and Adam Milne, New Zealand’s pace attack didn’t have the kind of penetration or depth that Pakistan’s had on Friday.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 168 for 5 (Mohammad Nawaz 38*, Mohammed Rizwan 34, Michael Bracewell 2-14) beat New Zealand 163 for 7 (Kane Williamson 59, Haris Rauf 2-22, Naseem Shah 2-38) by five wickets

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