Afridi’s return to form defeats New Zealand

Shahid Afridi of Pakistan plays a shot during the second 20/20 cricket match between New Zealand and Pakistan at Eden Park in Auckland on January 15, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP / MICHAEL BRADLEY (Photo credit should read MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP/Getty Images)

After losing the recent T20 series against England in UAE 3-0, Pakistan were disheartened. New Zealand were flying high from their recent home wins against Sri Lanka.

Challenging New Zealand in their own home in a very difficult task. Today the odds were against Pakistan at Eden Park, Auckland. However Pakistan is the most unpredictable team with the most unpredictable Captain- Shahid Afridi. He has had a bit of a torrid time with poor form and an irritable exchange with the press, back home. The nation’s pressure builds up as the T20 World Cup is only a few months away.

To add to the drama the controversial Mohammad Amir returned to play his first International match in 5 years. It was also great to see Umar Gul back, fit and well.

Pakistan batted first and Hafeez made an excellent start, finishing with 61 runs off 47 balls. Afridi fired well today ending with 23 off only 8 balls. (Two 6s, two 4s). Imad Wasim added a useful 18 runs off 9 balls. Pakistan’s total was 171/8.

The talented New Zealand squad in return fell 16 runs short, to lose the first match of three in the series. Only Munro (56 runs off 27 balls) and Wiliamson (70 runs off 60 balls) made any significant impact, while the others collapsed quickly.

Imad Wasim only gave away 18 runs off his 4 overs, also getting 1 wicket. This really was an extraordinary display of spin bowling. Wahab Riaz did very well getting crucial 3 wickets, while having the responsibility of bowling the last over. Mohammad Amir was unfortunate to have 2 catches dropped. Umar Gul also impressed with 2 wickets.

Pakistan generally win when their bowling clicks. On this performance it looks like the seam and spin options are just right.

However it was Shahid Afridi’s day making 23 runs off just 8 balls, taking 2 wickets for 26 runs and 2 great catches. He showed energy and determination in his leadership. The Pakistan unit looked a very different team to the one that lost to England. The attitude and team spirit was very positive.

If Afridi is in form and confident they can beat any team, any place, any time.

Man of the Match: Shahid Afridi

Next T20 Match: Sunday 17th January.

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