An inexperienced New Zealand survived Iftikhar Ahmed’s late onslaught to snatch a stunning four-run win against Pakistan and keep alive their five-match Twenty20 series on Monday.
Iftikhar smacked six sixes and three fours and nearly sealed the series 3-0 for Pakistan with a blistering 60 off 24 balls. But New Zealand medium-pacer James Neesham kept his nerve in the final over and Pakistan was dismissed for 159.
Captain Tom Latham, leading New Zealand in the absence of eight frontline players busy in the Indian Premier League, anchored the Kiwis to 163-5 with a brilliant 64 off 49 balls.
“We were pleased to get a competitive total and it’s satisfying to get across the line and keep the series alive,” Latham said. “The whole squad will take a lot of confidence from this match moving forward.”
Pakistan’s strong top order fell and limped to 88-7 in the 15th over. Then Iftikhar counter-punched by raising Pakistan’s joint fastest T20 half-century off just 20 balls.
Together with Faheem Ashraf, who made 27 off 14 deliveries, Iftikhar brought Pakistan in sight of victory with a 61-run, eighth-wicket stand.
Faheem holed out at long on in the penultimate over and Pakistan needed 15 off the final Neesham over.
Iftikhar clobbered a first-ball six over the square leg boundary and hit a crisp boundary on the off side. However, Iftikhar tried to finish off the game with another big hit and was caught at long on. Off the final delivery, last man Haris Rauf was also caught in the deep. Neesham took 3-38.
“We didn’t bat well enough,” captain Babar Azam said. “The pressure kept building throughout the run chase, (but) Iftikhar delivered and Faheem also chipped in with crucial runs.”
Babar, who smashed a century on Saturday, was out for 1 after Rachin Ravindra’s spectacular diving catch at third man in the second over. Chad Bowes smartly ran out Mohammad Rizwan for 6 in the fourth over.
Ravindra, 2-28, and legspinner Ish Sodhi, 1-11, pinned down the batters in the middle overs.
Earlier, Latham and Daryl Mitchell (33) revived New Zealand with a 65-run, third-wicket stand before they fell in successive overs late in the innings.
Mitchell was deceived by Shaheen Shah Afridi’s slower delivery and Latham, who hit seven fours and two sixes, was caught behind in Rauf’s return spell.
Pakistan leads the series 2-1 and Rawalpindi hosts the remaining two matches on Thursday and Monday.
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