Pakistan have opened their campaign at the T20 World Cup 2012 with a calculated win over New Zealand. The 2009 champions won the toss and chose to bat first at Pallekele, in the hope spinners Shoaib Mailk, Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi, as well as seamers Sohail Tanvir and Umar Gul, could extract some turn from the pitch later in the day. Captain Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed led the way with the bat, putting on 76 runs for the second wicket and guiding the team to 177/6 off 20 overs.
Pakistan 177/6 (Nasir Jamshed 56, Mohammad Hafeez 43; T Southee 2/31, J Oram 2/44) beat New Zealand 164/9 (Rob Nicol 33, Brendon McCullum 32; Saeed Ajmal 4/30) by 13 runs.
Player of the Match
Nasir Jamshed (PAK)
Pakistan got off to a rather alarming start, with captain Mohammad Hafeez dropped off only the third ball of the innings. Mills got an outswinger to jump at the batsman, a little more than he perhaps expected, and a regulation edge went straight to Hafeez's counterpart at first slip... only to be put down. The rest of the over was unspectacular but tidy. That ball, however, was a warning to the Pakistani batsmen to concentrate.
It seemed they were ready to do that. Veteran Kiwi spinner Daniel Vettori came on next and was promptly dispatched for six over long-on by Hafeez. Vettori fought back well in the rest of the over, keeping things tight. After the first two overs Pakistan were 9/0 and they needed those boundaries quickly.
Two came in the third over, with Imran Nazir suddenly sparking into life. The first was off the back foot to a good length ball timed superbly through the gap at cover. The second was on the leg side... Mills dropped it a touch too short, giving Nazir the time to set himself and pull perfectly past the man on the square leg boundary. Hafeez continued the act in the next over, punching Southee through midwicket for four more. The reasonably steady flow of boundaries and the fact the batsmen were not neglecting the singles and twos meant the score was ticking over very nicely; the third and fourth overs yielded 19 runs.
Nazir stepped up the pace in the fifth, smacking Jacob Oram for three boundaries and then hit the fourth in eight balls when he mistimed a drive through cover for four more. Southee and New Zealand had their revenge though and it was just in time... Nazir (25) pushed one straight back to the bowler.
Nasir Jamshed was the new batsman and the six he thumped Nathan McCullum for in the next over was a signal of his intentions. He repeated that against Adam Milne in the eighth and both Hafeez and Jamshed hit McCullum for maximum in the ninth. The runs kept coming from both ends, with Jamshed in fine form. The partnership was finally broken when Hafeez (43) swung at a good length ball by James Franklin, missed and was bowled. At the stage Pakistan were 125/2 off 14 overs.
The wicket was the start of a mini-collapse for the batting side, with Kamran Akmal (3), Nasir Jamshed (56) being dismissed in consecutive overs by Oram and Vettori. Umar Akmal (23), the next man in, dazzled briefly, hitting Mills for two consecutive boundaries at the start of the 17th over and Oram for a four and a six in the 19th before falling to long-on. But he had done enough to ensure Pakistan had the runs needed to win the match and Shahid Afridi (12) and Shoab Malik (9 not out) snatched 18 from the remaining eight balls to finish the innings.
The Kiwis needed their openers to fire... they couldn't rely on McCullum to do the job every time, could they? The first over was as with Pakistan - quiet - just the one run off it. Nicol started the party in the second, picking a full ball over long-on for six. Umar Gul had the third over and except for some wayward wides, brought the Kiwis under control again, only for Kane Williamson to hammer Sohail Tanvir over mid-off for four in the next. New Zealand were 26/0 after four overs, a decent start.
The advantage began to swing slight in the Kiwis' favour, though, once Nicol began hitting the boundaries more regularly. He found two off Yasir Arafat in the fifth over and one more off Gul in the sixth. Williamson chipped in at the start of the seventh but then disaster struck. Nicol (33) misread Afridi's quicker ball and lost his off stump! That brought McCullum to the crease but also led to Williamson's dismissal (15) after the two were mixed up in a run out.
The next four overs were all spin and it kept New Zealand quiet, a crucial period, as it would turn out. By the time McCullum finally started firing, with boundaries off Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez, the Kiwis had lost Vettori (18) and McCullum (32) followed in the next over, bowled by Gul. Oram (11) was dismissed at the start of the 17th over and by the time captain Ross Taylor came in to bat, the Kiwis needed 56 from 22 balls and despite Franklin and Taylor managing big hits, the asking rate just kept inching away from them. The two gave it a go though, with Franklin hammering Tanvir for a four and a six in the 18th before being caught by Jamshed at deep mid-wicket.
Taylor threatened with three boundaries in the first three balls of the 19th but was dismissed in the fourth and Ajmal, on for the last over, mopped up any resistance by snaring Southee and Nathan McCuullum.