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Afridi’s Triumph: Pakistan Avoids Whitewash Against Kiwis

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In a stunning turn of events, Pakistan’s cricket team managed to salvage pride by clinching a resounding victory in the fifth and final Twenty20 International against New Zealand.

The win, which came by a margin of 42 runs, prevented a series whitewash for Pakistan, who had struggled throughout the five-match series. This victory was particularly crucial for captain Shaheen Shah Afridi, marking the end of his first captaincy stint on a high note.

 

Importance of Avoiding a Whitewash:

Despite losing the series 4-1, Shaheen Shah Afridi emphasized the importance of avoiding a whitewash, considering the potential setback it could have been for the team. He stated that the series, seen primarily as a preparation phase for the upcoming T20 World Cup in June, served as a vital opportunity to build team cohesion and provide chances to emerging talents.

 

Team Unity and Redemption:

Shaheen Shah Afridi reflected on the struggles in the initial four games, citing collapses in both the fielding and batting units. However, the captain expressed satisfaction that the team finally played cohesively in the final match, highlighting the necessity of this collective effort. Afridi stated, “Today’s game was very important for us. We needed that as a unit to step forward.”

 

Bowling Brilliance:

A significant contributor to Pakistan’s triumph was part-time off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed, who, in his first appearance in the series, delivered a stellar performance with career-best figures of 3-24. The weakened New Zealand batting lineup, missing key players such as Kane Williamson, Devon Conway, and Daryl Mitchell, struggled against the quality spin bowling of Pakistan.

 

Left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz (2-18) and captain Shaheen Shah Afridi (2-20) also played crucial roles in restricting New Zealand to their second-lowest T20 total on home soil. Pakistan’s bowling unit showcased its depth, with timely breakthroughs and effective use of spin.

 

New Zealand’s Challenges:

New Zealand, missing three of their first-choice batters due to various reasons, faced challenges in their batting lineup. Captain Mitchell Santner acknowledged the exposed vulnerabilities in their chasing strategy. He admitted, “In a chase like that, we talk about taking it as deep as we can and we didn’t do that.” Despite the shortcomings, Santner viewed the series positively, highlighting the emergence of different players at different times.

 

Redemption Through Batting:

Initially, New Zealand seemed poised to secure a clean sweep with disciplined bowling performances from seamers Tim Southee, Matt Henry, and Lockie Ferguson, along with spinner Ish Sodhi. Veteran Southee’s early breakthroughs, including the dismissal of dangerous batsman Fakhar Zaman, indicated New Zealand’s dominance.

 

However, Pakistan’s batting resurgence, led by Haseebullah Khan and Mohammad Rizwan, turned the tables. Haseebullah’s debut was marked by resilience, and Rizwan’s top-scoring innings of 38 off 38 deliveries played a pivotal role in steering Pakistan towards a competitive total.

 

What Lies Ahead:

With this series behind them, New Zealand is set to face a two-Test home series against South Africa, while Pakistan gears up for their next international fixtures – five T20s at home against New Zealand in April. The win in the final T20 not only prevented a whitewash but also serves as a morale boost for Pakistan as they focus on refining their strategy and identifying key players ahead of the T20 World Cup.

 

Conclusion:

 

Pakistan’s redemption in the final T20 against New Zealand not only showcased their resilience but also highlighted the depth and talent within the team. Captain Shaheen Shah Afridi’s leadership and the stellar performances from the bowling unit signify a positive step forward. As both teams shift their focus to future challenges, this series will be remembered for the twists, turns, and the spirited fight displayed on the cricket field.

Waseem Shahzad Qadri
Waseem Shahzad Qadrihttp://wasimqadriblog.wordpress.com/
Islamabad based Senior Journalist, TV Show Host, Media Trainer, can be follow on twitter @jaranwaliya

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