Pakistan defeats New Zealand in Babar’s 100th T20 as captain.

Pakistan celebrated Babar Azam’s 100th Twenty20 with a resounding 88-run victory over a depleted New Zealand in the opening game of their five-match series on Friday.

Haris Rauf’s career-best figures of 4-18 overshadowed Matt Henry’s earlier hat trick as New Zealand was bundled out for 94 with over four overs remaining, losing its last five wickets for only six runs.

Young batters Saim Ayub and Fakhar Zaman scored 47 runs apiece before New Zealand struck in the second half of Pakistan’s innings on the strength of Henry’s triple trick and bowled them out for 182 in the final over.

Babar stated, “I still recall my beginnings as a ball boy on the sidelines, and to now be here is a tremendous honour.”

After losing 2-1 to Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates during a series in which four frontline players, including Rauf and Babar, were rested, Pakistan returned to its full vigour for the series against New Zealand.

Pakistan’s Faheem Ashraf celebrates with teammates after dismissing New Zealand’s Daryl Mitchell during the first Twenty20 cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand on Friday, April 14, 2023, in Lahore, Pakistan. (AP)

A depleted New Zealand side is touring Pakistan for five Twenty20 Internationals and five One-Day Internationals without eight-star players participating in the Indian Premier League.

Tom Latham, the captain of New Zealand, stated that a number of his team’s players were unfamiliar with the venue and that it would be important for them to apply what they’ve learned from today’s game and adapt swiftly for tomorrow’s match. “We did not adapt to the circumstances quickly enough… Pakistan’s performance on that surface was marginally above par.

New Zealand struck early through Adam Milne (2-51) in the powerplay when the fast bowler captured Mohammad Rizwan (8) leg before wicket and Babar was bowled out for 9 off 7 balls attempting an overly ambitious shot on the offside against the pacer.

Saim was run out when he was unable to beat Chad Bowes’ direct throw from deep midwicket and fell short of his crease at the non-striker’s end. Saim and Fakhar then combined for an aggressive 79-run standoff 43 deliveries before Saim was out.

Fakhar, attempting a sweep against leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, was caught in the deep in the deep as Pakistan fell to 6-131.

Henry then completed a split hat trick by catching Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed lbw off the final two deliveries of his third over of return bowling. Henry then had Shaheen Shah Afridi caught deep in the field by Daryl Mitchell, who spectacularly parried the ball back to Bowes while tumbling over the boundary line.

Pakistan’s strong pace attack unsettled New Zealand’s inexperienced top-order, with Mark Chapman top-scoring with 34, but not before Rizwan missed a regulation stumping early in his innings.

Rauf then swiftly concluded the innings by taking three wickets in his return stint, and left-arm spinner Imad Wasim also took two wickets off consecutive deliveries to give Pakistan a commanding start to the series.

Lahore will hold two additional Twenty20 matches before Rawalpindi hosts the final two matches of the series. Five ODIs will follow the T20 series in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

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