SARJAH: Pakistan found a new hero in Asif Ali and rediscovered an old one in Shoaib Malik as the Green Shirts kept their unbeaten start to the T20 World Cup 2021 alive with a closely contested five-wicket win over New Zealand in Sharjah on Tuesday.
Chasing 135, Pakistan were expected to cruise to the target, especially after their 10-wicket drubbing of the mighty Indian side on Sunday. But instead, the chase turned increasingly difficult as Pakistan's trademark batting collapse reared its head again, and threatened to break the hearts of their fans.
At one point in the run chase, Pakistan were 87-5 in the 15th over and the game was slipping away from the clutches of the Men in Green. This is when Malik and Asif came together to form an unbeaten 48-run partnership in a clutch situation.
Asif's contribution, in particular, was massive as his back-to-back sixes in the 17th over brought Pakistan back in the game and justified his place in the side.
Earlier, Pakistan were led by fast bowler Haris Rauf, who finished with 4-22, as New Zealand posted a paltry 134-8.
Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell were joint top-scorers with 27 each while skipper Kane Williamson made a laborious 26-ball 25.
Pakistan applied the pressure right from the start as left-arm paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi, whose three wickets against India earned him player of the match, bowled a maiden first over.
New Zealand reached 36 without loss when Rauf bowled Martin Guptill off his pads for 17. He also accounted for Conway and Glenn Phillips (13) in one over as New Zealand failed to lift the tempo at any stage.
Rauf also dismissed Mitchell Santner (six) with the last ball of the final over.
Shaheen finished with 1-21 while spinners Mohammad Hafeez and Imad Wasim also took a wicket each.
Pakistan kept the same team that won against India.
New Zealand — playing their first game in the Super 12s — were jolted before the start of the match when fast bowler Lockie Ferguson was ruled out of the tournament with a calf injury.
Rauf was named the player of the match.