Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill – New Zealand’s two form batsmen – combined in a clinical display of poise and timing, to gun down Pakistan’s 168 for 7 inside eighteen overs in Hamilton. Their 171-run stand was the highest ever for T20Is, let alone for opening pairs. The ten-wicket victory evened the series in emphatic fashion. Guptill left the field with 87 to his name, and Williamson with a personal best of 72 – both striking at 150.
Williamson had been the early aggressor, flitting about his crease to make use of errant lines from the Pakistan bowlers. He slapped Mohammad Amir through the leg side for four in the second over, then cracked three fours through point off Imad Wasim soon after. With the positioning of the pitch making the eastern square boundary only 52 metres, Williamson continued to move around his crease to target that – most memorably lap-scooping Amir to the fine-leg fence in the fifth over. Williamson had New Zealand’s run rate hurtling at 10 an over inside the Powerplay, and it did not dip too far below that thereafter.
Guptill was more still at the crease, hitting a flat six off Umar Gul in the first over of the chase, but largely batting in Williamson’s slipstream before taking flight through the middle overs. He struck consecutive fours, either side of the wicket, off Amir in the 13th over, and successive sixes off Shahid Afridi in the 15th. He struck four sixes and nine fours in his 58-ball innings. Williamson didn’t clear the rope, but hit 11 fours.
Pakistan had lost early wickets and made a stalling start before Shoaib Malik’s measured 39 and Umar Akmal’s violent 56 not out from 27 balls seemed to have revived their chances in the match. New Zealand’s batting was excellent, but Pakistan’s bowlers perhaps had their thoughts scrambled by the asymmetrical dimensions of the field – one square boundary more than 20 metres shorter than the other.
Amir had a particularly poor outing, leaking 34 from his 3 overs, but no one in the Pakistan attack fared well. Wahab Riaz went at 10 an over, and the usually-miserly Imad Wasim at 8. Such was the adaptability of New Zealand’s batting, that they were not slowed by Shahid Afridi’s rifling through the attack, nor the several different fields he employed through the innings.
Mitchell McClenaghan was the best of New Zealand’s bowlers, delivering a tight line, largely on off stump, and mixing up his pace and lengths intelligently. He had conceded only eight runs from his first three overs, but those figures were soured somewhat by Akmal’s late charge, during which the batsman struck two fours and a six in three balls. McClenaghan did take valuable wickets however, having bowled Malik with a yorker in his third over, then having Wasim top-edging a bouncer to fine leg in the penultimate over of the innings.
Earlier, Pakistan had been 34 for 2 after 6.1 overs before Malik arrived to ease the innings into motion, beginning with singles to third man, then a spate of fours to that short boundary. His 63-run fourth-wicket stand with Umar Akmal was the most substantial of the innings.
Akmal blasted consecutive sixes off Mitchell Santner to the short leg-side boundary early in his innings, but he wasn’t shy of taking on the longer boundary either. He batted busily through the middle overs, and memorably launched Grant Elliott into the adjacent road in the 16th over, with a 103-metre hit over cow corner. Clean striking in McClenaghan’s final over moved him to 50 off 22 balls – the second fastest T20 half-century for Pakistan just one ball behind his own record. He lost partners in quick succession through those late overs, but appeared to have seen Pakistan through to a good score, given their successful defence of 171 two evenings prior.