After mediocre performances in the first two matches, the pressure was on Pakistan’s batsmen to deliver in the third One-Day International against New Zealand in Sharjah on Sunday (December 14). Shahid Afridi, the skipper in the absence of the injured Misbah-ul-Haq, called for his batting line-up to show more responsibility and his side responded to his calls by firing on all cylinders, cruising to a comprehensive 147-run win to take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
Almost all batsmen, led by Ahmed Shehzad’s sixth ODI century and Afridi’s typically entertaining 55 from 26 balls, made contributions as the host posted a mammoth 364 for 7 — its highest total against New Zealand — after opting to bat first. New Zealand was bowled out for 217 in 38.2 overs, Afridi and Haris Sohail, the left-arm spinner, taking three wickets each.
Shehzad was out for nought in the previous match, but put that behind him to smash a fluent 120-ball 113, comprising 12 fours and two sixes. He shared partnerships in excess of 60 each with Mohammad Hafeez (33), Younus Khan (35) and then Asad Shafiq (23) to set the innings up for a late flourish by the middle order.
Pakistan had lost three wickets in both the previous ODIs by the time it reached 40, but Shehzad and Hafeez changed the script this time. Shehzad launched the attack in the fourth over, blasting Mitchell McClenaghan for three fours, and Hafeez did the same in the sixth over as the duo raced to a 63-run opening stand within eight overs. Hafeez fell, edging Corey Anderson to the wicketkeeper a ball after he smashed him for a six, but Younus joined Shehzad to continue Pakistan’s good start.
Younus accumulated runs in typical fashion while Shehzad found the odd boundary. The pair appeared headed for a big association when Younus threw his wicket away in an attempt to up the ante, ending a 70-run stand for the second wicket. He was caught at long-on off Nathan McCullum’s bowling in the 22nd over, going for a big shot after scoring a six and a four earlier in the over.
But Shehzad was in no mood to give up the good start, guiding his team through the middle overs with Shafiq. He got a reprieve on 92 when Luke Ronchi dropped a tough catch off Anderson in the 31st over. Four overs later, he guided James Neesham to third-man to bring up his century.
Matt Henry, the birthday boy, dismissed both Shehzad and Shafiq against the run of play off successive deliveries in the 38th over. Shehzad perished first, unsuccessfully trying to loft over mid-off, and Shafiq followed his partner immediately by letting one go through his gate. The twin wickets reduced Pakistan to 210 for 4, but New Zealand’s woes were not over. In fact, they just started as Afridi walked in to launch a trademark, brutal assault to help Pakistan collect 47 runs in the Batting Power Play. He was particularly harsh on Anderson, smashing the left-arm pacer for 33 runs in two overs.
At the other end, Sohail (39 off 28) too played a cameo, the pair adding 89 for the fifth wicket in just 46 balls. Afridi brought up his second half-century in three matches, off just 21 balls. His knock included six fours and three sixes. Sohail Tanvir (17 off 9) and Sarfraz Ahmed (30 off 14) then smashed an unbeaten 18-ball 51-run partnership for the eighth wicket as Pakistan plundered 125 runs from the last 10 overs.
All the bowlers, barring Nathan McCullum, went at over 6 runs per over. Anderson, who bore the brunt of the Pakistani attack, conceded 96 runs from his 10-over spell.
New Zealand needed a record performance from its batsmen to scale down the gigantic target, but the chase never got going. Mohammad Irfan accounted for Anton Devcich and Martin Guptill within the first six overs and it was an uphill task from then on. Ross Taylor shone for a while, smashing three sixes and a four en route to a 25-ball 31 but Afridi ensured that there were no further heroics, bowling the former skipper in the 13th over with a slider.
Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s captain, and Tom Latham, took the team past 100 in the 19th over with a steady 49-run partnership. However, Sohail ended the resistance in the 22nd over, inducing Williamson to chip a return catch for 46. Anderson and Latham perished soon after and it was only a matter of time before New Zealand succumbed to spin and scoreboard pressure.
Ronchi helped himself to a 40-ball 41 alongside the tail to help New Zealand cross 200, but it was obviously nowhere close to the mountain of runs Pakistan had piled up.