Iftikhar's Heroics in Vain as New Zealand Clinch Thrilling Victory against Pakistan
New Zealand secured a thrilling win against Pakistan in 3rd T20I (AP Photo)
In a fascinating clash of epic proportions, New Zealand emerged victorious in a closely contested third T20I against Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Monday.
The thrilling encounter, which went down to the last ball, saw the Kiwis edge out their rivals by a narrow margin of four runs, thereby staying alive in the five-match series, following Pakistan's triumph in the first two games.
How the battle panned out?
New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat first, approaching their innings with cautious optimism, avoiding undue risks, and reaching 35/1 at the end of the powerplay. The team's skipper, Tom Latham, and Will Young led the charge, with opener Chad Bowes dismissed for a mere seven runs.
Young departed in the ninth over, having scored a modest 17, and the experienced duo of Latham and Daryl Mitchell took center stage, forming a vital partnership of 65 runs off 43 balls, which steadied the Kiwis' innings.
Mitchell exited in the 16th over, having amassed 33 runs off 26 balls, paving the way for Latham to take charge with his commanding performance. However, he also departed in the following over, having scored a remarkable 64 runs off 49 balls, featuring seven fours and two sixes. With the match hanging in the balance, Mark Chapman and James Neesham’s quick cameos helped the tourists post a competitive total of 163/5.
Chase time didn't pan out well for PAK
Pakistan's response was inauspicious, with their skipper and last match's centurion, Babar Azam, dismissed for a mere one run, followed by Mohammad Rizwan who departed for 6. The team struggled to make headway, and by the fourth over, they had slumped to 17/2. Fakhar Azam, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, and Shaheen Afridi also faltered, and Pakistan reached a disappointing 88/7 in 14.1 overs.
The situation looked dire for Pakistan, but Iftikhar Ahmed and Faheem Ashraf put up a valiant fight, attempting to revive their team's fortunes. Iftikhar's explosive batting proved instrumental, with his ruthless hitting keeping the game alive, and pushing the Kiwis to their limits. Faheem's departure with 15 runs still needed, however, spelled the end for Pakistan's hopes of clinching victory.
Having scored a remarkable 60 runs off just 24 balls, Iftikhar came tantalizingly close to snatching victory from the jaws of defeat but he was caught at long on with five needed off three balls as he went for a glory shot. Nevertheless, Neesham held his nerve amidst the wreckage caused by Iftikhar, ultimately securing the win for New Zealand and keeping their hopes of winning the series alive.
The two sides will face off in the fourth T20I on Thursday, April 20, at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, in what promises to be another exhilarating match-up.
New Zealand: 163/5 (20)
Tom Latham 64 (40), Daryl Mitchell 33 (26)
Haris Rauf 2-31, Shaheen Afridi 2-33
Pakistan: 159/10 (20)
Iftikhar Ahmed 60 (24), Faheem Ashraf 27 (14)
James Neesham 3-38, Rachin Ravindra 2-28
New Zealand won by four runs