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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Asif stars in crucial Pakistan win
Pakistan's Asif Ali and Shoaib Malik (R) talk during the ICC T20 World Cup match against New Zealand at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. -- AFP
Pakistan's Asif Ali and Shoaib Malik (R) talk during the ICC T20 World Cup match against New Zealand at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. -- AFP

Muscat, Oct 26


A superb late surge from Asif Ali (27, 12b, 1x4, 3x6) helped Pakistan beat New Zealand by five wickets and take giant strides towards the semifinal in the ICC T20 World Cup 2021, in Sharjah on Tuesday.


Shoaib Malik (27, 20b, 2x4, 1x6) assisted Asif towards the latter stages of the game and Asif kept going even after being hit on the helmet.


It was a fighting performance from Pakistan, typical of their yesteryears, to defeat a New Zealand team that made the Pakistanis work really hard for the 135-run target.


Pakistan were off to a cautious start with their star openers Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan putting on 28 runs in five overs.


Southee struck in the sixth over castling Babar as Pakistan lost their first wicket of the World Cup.


No 3 Fakhar Zaman was strangulated by the New Zealand bowlers before getting out lbw to Ish Sodhi. Experienced bat Mohammad Hafeez slammed a six off his very first ball but was sent back after a sensational catch by Devon Conway off Mitchell Santner. Pakistan were in real trouble at 63/3 in 11 overs.


And before long, it was 69/4 when Sodhi got Rizwan out plumb in front as Pakistan's plans were coming apart. Imad Wasim and Shoaib Malik had a short partnership going before Imad was lbw to Trent Boult with Pakistan at 87/5.


NZ STRUGGLE WITH BAT


Pakistan could not quite get New Zealand on the mat as they did against India. The searing pace and swing of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf started well but wickets eluded them until the end of the powerplay.


New Zealand did not get off to a flying start but ensured they kept wickets in hand. Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell struck a few boundaries to keep the scoreboard ticking.


It was in the sixth over when Rauf got Guptill to inside edge a delivery onto the stumps as the Kiwis lost their first wicket with the score on 36.


Daryl Mitchell was out caught by Fakhar Zaman off Imad Wasim in the ninth over for 27 as New Zealand were in a spot of bother.


Zaman was again the centre of attention when he plucked a catch at mid-wicket off Mohammad Hafeez to send James Neesham back to the pavilion.


Skipper Kane Williamson and Devon Conway had to stitch a partnership together to get New Zealand back on track.


Conway was particularly severe on Shadab Khan in his third over when he carted him for three consecutive boundaries in the 13th over of the match.


Disaster struck for NZ when skipper Williamson was run out after a direct him from bowler Hasan Ali when he took off for a non-existent single and fell short.


Conway was eventually out for 27 caught by Pakistan captain Babar Azam at cow corner off Haris Rauf as New Zealand looked to accelerate in the 18th over.


Glenn Phillips fell to a slower ball by Rauf in the third ball of the 18th over when Hasan Ali snapped him up.


The Kiwis really struggled to get going in the last five overs of their innings as Seifert was taken out by Shaheen Shah Afridi. Rauf bowled Mitchell Santner in the last over as New Zealand wrapped up their innings at 134/8 in 20 overs.


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