WELLINGTON: Pakistan lower order gave New Zealand a major scare but couldn’t help the visitors avoid a 5-0 series whitewash as the hosts clinched the fifth and final ODI in Wellington on Friday (January 19) by 15 runs. Set a target of 272, Pakistan lost too many wickets upfront to keep up with the chase as Matt Henry made the most of the belated opportunity he got this series. A better fightback came from the middle and lower order – strong enough to trigger a panic in the hosts’ camp and give the tourists an outside chance. But Pakistan could manage only 256 in reply to fall marginally short.
The top-three of Pakistan fell to nothing shots as New Zealand, and Henry, kicked off their defence of 271 on a bright note. Opener Umar Amin, who got a look in in place of the injured Shoaib Malik, threw his chance, and wicket, cheaply. Fakhar Zaman got a life on one as Colin Munro let go of an easy chance at square leg, but he couldn’t make it count. A couple of overs later, Henry eventually got his man as the Pakistan opener chipped a catch straight to the man at mid-off. Babar Azam, recently picked in the ICC ODI Team of the Year, got a terrific ball in the corridor of uncertainty, going away a tad, that took a thick outside edge and flew to Martin Guptill at second slip.
Mohammad Hafeez gave Lockie Ferguson his first wicket of the game as he picked out Munro at extra cover, falling for just six in his landmark 200th ODI. Colin Grandhomme joined the party soon after when Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed went for a aimless heave that was well intercepted by a flying Ross Taylor at midwicket. At that moment, Pakistan’s innings was in complete disarray, and a victory looked a possibility only if a miracle were to take place.
It almost did. Starting with Haris Sohail and Shadab Khan.
The pair put on a century stand for the sixth wicket to keep New Zealand at bay for the next 20 overs. They brought up their respective half-centuries as Pakistan slowly inched closer to scripting a fightback; before Santner came to the party.
Soon after the partnership crossed the 100-run milestone, Santner struck to dismiss both the set batsmen in successive overs and, effectively, bring curtains down on Pakistan’s chase. The left-armer returned into the attack in the 38th over and broke the 105-run century stand by taking out Sohail for 63. Looking to lift one over long-on, the Pakistan middle-order batsman hurried into his shot, only to give Henry Nicholls an easy catch with 110 still to get. An over later, Shadab was also sent on his way back after edging a heave to short third man.
Faheem Ashraf, before becoming Santner’s third victim, Aamer Yamin and Mohammad Nawaz showed more intent than Pakistan’s top-order. The trio’s entertaining cameos kept New Zealand on their toes by reducing the equation down to a very manageable 46 off 30 remaining balls courtesy couple of 16-run overs towards the backend off pacers Henry and Ferguson.
Ferguson leapt in joy after taking out Nawaz for 23 off 12. With luck on his side, Yamin though continued to frustrate the New Zealand bowlers some more as the edges flew to boundary ropes to further bring down the deficit. However, fittingly, it was Henry who hit the final nail in the coffin – dismissing Rumman Raees with a slower bouncer, in the penultimate over, to bowl out Pakistan for 256.