Fakhar Zaman smashed his ninth ODI century and powered Pakistan to a five-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first one-day international on Thursday.
Fakhar, the left-handed opener, made 117 off 114 balls and guided Pakistan to 291-5 with more than an over to spare for a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Fakhar’s opening partner Imam-ul-Haq laid the solid foundation of the run-chase by scoring 60 in a century opening stand and captain Babar Azam also notched 49 in a dominant Pakistan run-chase on a slow wicket.
Earlier, fast bowler Naseem Shah (2-29) bowled brilliantly both with the new and old ball to limit New Zealand at 288-7 despite Daryl Mitchell hitting a career-best 113 off 115 balls after Babar won the toss and elected to field.
Will Young, opening for the first time in his short ODI career, grew in confidence and made an aggressive 86 off 78 balls as he raised a 102-run stand with Mitchell after surviving Naseem’s early seam and swing.
Mitchell escaped early in his otherwise brilliant knock when on 23 part-time spinner Agha Salman couldn’t hold onto a sharp return catch. Young hit eight fours and two sixes before he finally holed out at long-off after leg-spinner Shadab Khan (1-56) switched ends and provided Pakistan a much-needed breakthrough in the 27th over.
Mitchell, however, continued to dominate both pace and spin and — despite captain Tom Latham laboring for 36 balls for his knock of 20 — added a further 72 runs for the third-wicket stand.
Mitchell raised his second ODI century with a straight driven boundary against Shaheen Shah Afridi (2-63) before Pakistan pegged back the Black Caps in the death overs through pace.
Mark Chapman, who was retained for the ODIs after his brilliant run of batting form in the 2-2 drawn T20 series against Pakistan, couldn’t force acceleration as he attempted a ramp shot against Haris Rauf (2-65) and was clean bowled for 15.
Mitchell, who hit 11 fours and two sixes, was also tied down by Naseem in his return spell as boundaries dried up before Afridi finally had him caught in the deep. Naseem capped a brilliant display of fast bowling by claiming two wickets off the final two deliveries as Pakistan allowed New Zealand only 37 runs in the last five overs.
Fakhar survived a tough chance in the first over when Latham couldn’t grab a one-handed catch down the legside. New Zealand, touring without eight frontline white-ball players busy playing in the Indian Premier League, couldn’t trouble both the left-handers — Fakhar and Imam — with their second string pace attack as the pair raised 124-run stand.
Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi broke through when he had Imam trapped leg before wicket off a sharp turning delivery before Babar raised another dominant 90-run partnership with Fakhar.
Fakhar raised his century off 99 balls before he mistimed a slog sweep against the left-arm spin of Rachin Ravindra and gave a regulation catch at mid-on as New Zealand hit back late when Adam Milne (2-60) removed Babar and Shan Masood (1) in successive overs. Mohammad Rizwan led Pakistan with a brisk unbeaten 42 off 36 balls as Pakistan romped to victory in the 49th over.
Rawalpindi will host the second ODI on Saturday while Karachi will host the remaining three games next week.
Result: Pakistan won by 5 wickets
Player of the match: Fakhar Zaman (Pak)
By: Saif R Siddiqui