Afridi, spinners help Pakistan level T20i series

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Shaheen Shah Afridi’s 4-30 led Pakistan to a series-leveling nine-run win over a spirited New Zealand in their fifth and final Twenty20 on Saturday.

Batting allrounder Josh Clarkson looked like getting New Zealand a stunning series win but his last two partners ran themselves out trying to feed him the strike.

New Zealand was all out for 169 with four balls left in reply to Pakistan’s 178-5, and Clarkson finished with a career-best 38 not out off 26 balls.

The Kiwis came without nine frontline players and were expected to be swept in the series, which was also preparation for the T20 World Cup in June. After a first-game washout they were bowled out for 90 but fought back to come within four balls of stealing the series.

Pakistan rode captain Babar Azam’s 69 off 44 balls but New Zealand continued the home team’s struggles in the middle overs with disciplined spin and seam bowling.

Babar was fluent in the power play against the pacers. He shared 73 runs with Usman Khan, who scored 31 off 24 balls.

Usman, who was banned by the United Arab Emirates for five years for switching his allegiance to his country of birth in a hope of making the T20 World Cup, had a below-par debut series. He scored only 59 runs in four innings.

New Zealand clawed its way back. Ben Sears clean-bowled Babar with a fiery yorker but the seamer was punished by left-hander Fakhar Zaman (43) in the death overs. Pakistan scored 55 runs in the last five overs.

New Zealand’s reply cruised to 81-1 in eight overs before the top order was spun into knots.

Opener Tim Seifert, who missed the last game due to a sore back, clubbed Mohammad Amir for five boundaries and a six in the fast bowler’s first two overs. Seifert scored 52 off 33 when he was bowled by leg-spinner Usama Mir (2-21).

Mir also got the prized wicket of Mark Chapman (12) in his next over when the left-hander went for a sweep shot.

Michael Bracewell, who promoted himself to No. 3 in the absence of the injured Dean Foxcroft and Tim Robinson, made 23 before he was caught at short midwicket off leg-spinner Shadab Khan. Cole McConchie was lbw and New Zealand was 103-5.

Afridi outfoxed Tom Blundell in the first over and picked up two wickets in two balls when Jimmy Neesham couldn’t pick up the slower ball and Zak Foulkes got a brutal yorker first up. Afridi then earned his second four-wicket haul in T20s when he trapped Ish Sodhi.

Clarkson restored New Zealand hopes by smacking two sixes and three boundaries and reducing the winning task to 12 runs off the last over but his last two partners were run out.
From: Saif R Siddiqui

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