New Zealand suffered a late collapse of 6 for 37 on a slow, grippy Karachi pitch, but the attacking enterprise of Devon Conway and Kane Williamson prior to that gave their spin-heavy attack a defendable total to work with. After Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson made the early incisions in Pakistan’s chase of 262, New Zealand spin quartet muzzled the hosts with their subtle variations and forced the series into a decider on Friday.
Despite wickets falling around him, Babar Azam offered Pakistan hope with 79 off 114 balls, but could not find a higher gear to keep the asking rate in touch.
Mitchell Santner did his thing by relentlessly attacking the stumps and holding his length back. Michael Bracewell, who is more of a batting allrounder for his domestic side Wellington, was the most economical spinner, returning 1 for 29 in his ten overs.
Ish Sodhi, who returned to the side in place of Henry Shipley, bowled into the pitch and often drew mis-hits from Pakistan’s batters. The legspinner bagged the prized scalp of Babar, the second-last Pakistan batter to be dismissed, and all but sealed New Zealand’s series-levelling win. Glenn Phillips, who is now a reluctant wicketkeeper because of a back condition, added to New Zealand’s spin stocks in an ODI World Cup year, trapping Haris Sohail lbw. The spinners had combined figures of 30-0-114-5.
It was Southee and Ferguson who set the tone for New Zealand’s successful defence. After testing Fakhar Zaman with six inswingers, Southee ran one away from the left-hander on a Test-match length and kissed his outside edge. Gone for a seven-ball duck. With a number of New Zealand fast bowlers absent through injury, Ferguson took the new ball along with Southee and blasted out Imam-ul-Haq with a 153kph bouncer.
Babar repaired the innings with Mohammad Rizwan, adding 55 together for the third wicket, but they needed 99 balls to get there. The New Zealand spinners kept hiking the asking rate and drawing errors from Pakistan’s batters. Babar tried to take the chase as deep as possible, but his men were bowled out in 43 overs.
Earlier in the day, Mohammad Nawaz thrived on the sluggish pitch, finding grip and turn with even his quick darts. Nawaz’s bowling wasn’t just about grip and turn. A delightful cocktail of drift, dip and turn breached the defences of Williamson in the 35th over. Skid and zip off a fairly slow pitch undid Tom Latham, who is among the best players of spin in New Zealand’s line-up. He was responsible for four wickets in New Zealand’s collapse of 6 for 37.
Pakistan had also started well, with Naseem Shah striking in his first over once again. After having sent Conway packing for a golden duck in the first ODI, the fast bowler had Finn Allen slashing a catch to Nawaz at short cover for 1 in the second. Williamson then combined with Conway for a game-changing 181-run second-wicket stand.
During those early exchanges, Conway struggled for timing and often lost his shape when he tried to over-hit the ball. Williamson, meanwhile, was in control from the get-to.
The New Zealand captain started his innings with a trademark dab to deep third and then displayed greater intent in the powerplay. He scythed Naseem over backward point and shoveled Mohammad Wasim in the air over midwicket for fours. Williamson was the first to notch up his half-century off 52 balls, with Conway joining him in the same over.
Williamson was then reprieved twice in a space of four balls in the 22nd over. When Wasim first dug one into the pitch, he spliced a pull to midwicket, where Haris dropped an overhead coach. Three balls later, Rizwan, the wicketkeeper, spurned a chance after Wasim brushed Williamson’s glove.
Conway then showed signs of his fluent best, countering Pakistan’s spinners with his variety of hard sweeps, including the reverse. After reaching his first fifty off 57 balls, he needed just 32 more for triple-figures. When Babar tried to coax a few quiet overs from part-time spinner Agha Salman, Conway took him for 12 off eight balls and helped put him out of the attack. Conway even charged at Wasim, audaciously pumping him over point for six. Just when he looked good for more, Naseem conjured up a wicket before Nawaz took over and wrecked New Zealand’s middle order.
Santner fought gamely at the death, scoring 37 off 40 balls, before he was run out off the penultimate ball of the innings. He also stepped up with the ball and ensured there would be no way back for Pakistan, despite Babar’s resistance.
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