New Zealand 315 for 7 (Williamson 115, Munro 58, Nicholls 50, Hasan 3-61) v Pakistan
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
If Pakistan didn’t know already, they found out the hard way that dropping Kane Williamson has serious consequences. Given a reprieve by Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed when on 26, he went on to score a classy hundred, guiding New Zealand to an intimidating 315.
Opening bowlers Mohammad Amir and Rumman Raees found significantly lesser swing than Sarfraz would have hoped for when he won the toss and put New Zealand in. While Amir’s pace and consistency inoculated him from much punishment, the in-form Colin Munro (58) – fresh off a hundred and two fifties in his last three T20Is – tucked into the less experienced Raees.
Martin Guptill kicked things off with a trademark six flat over the bowler’s head. But while he took his time trying to play himself back in form, Munro had no time to lose. He timed the ball beautifully and expertly took advantage of the fielding restrictions, turning several ones into twos and maintaining the pressure on the Pakistan attack.
Munro exploded in the tenth over, smashing Raees for two fours and a six. He didn’t back away from the No. 1 ranked ODI bowler Hasan Ali either, bringing up a 33-ball fifty with a six over fine leg. He followed up with another boundary, before Hasan intelligently adjusted his line, forcing Munro to prod at one, who edged through to Sarfraz. Pakistan had begun to look desperate for the breakthrough, with the opening partnership producing 83 runs in 75 balls.
The scoring rate slowed slightly after that, but none of Pakistan’s bowlers looked particularly incisive as Williamson and Guptill took cruise control of the middle overs. They were masterful at judging Pakistan’s levels, quick to capitalise when they dropped even slightly. Williamson’s costly reprieve came at a time when New Zealand were slowly setting themselves up for a total over 300. It left Sarfraz rather red-faced; the Pakistan captain had just given one of his fielders an earful for sloppiness.
But as Guptill began to loosen his arms, Pakistan found a breakthrough in the iunlikely form of Fakhar Zaman snaring his first international wicket. Hasan returned to nip a budding partnership between Williamson and Ross Taylor, knocking over the latter’s off stump before it got out of hand. Tom Latham lobbed Faheem Ashraf – who was impressive on a quick pitch – next over, as Pakistan finally began to dominate a passage of play.
However, any thoughts of derailing New Zealand were firmly put to rest by a superb counter-attacking partnership between Williamson and Henry Nicholls (50). As Williamson approached his hundred, it was Nicholls who took control, manipulating the fielders with clever shot-making; both the reverse sweep and Dil-scoop were used to good measure. The running between the wickets, too, was sharp, as Pakistan’s tardiness in the field began to be exploited.
But Pakistan may be able to get satisfaction from that they never really allowed New Zealand to tee off in the final overs. Raees returned and bowled a much better spell in the death overs, confounding the batsmen with changes of pace and other variations, while Amir – though not at his best – is not the sort of bowlers who goes for big runs often. Williamson has all the gifts a batsmen could dream of possessing, but he isn’t a power hitter, and wasn’t able to inflict the damage his side would have been looking to cause in their pursuit for a score around 350. The last five overs went for 38 runs as Pakistan managed to keep the total from getting too far out of hand. Even so, 315 is the highest score ever posted at this ground, and at the half-way mark, New Zealand will feel they have the bowlers to get off to a winning start.