Pakistan’s Remarkable Turnaround: Iftikhar Ahmed Shines as New Zealand Stumbles in T20 Clash


Pakistan’s Remarkable Turnaround: Iftikhar Ahmed Shines as New Zealand Stumbles in T20 Clash

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Unlikely Hero Iftikhar Ahmed’s Sensational Bowling Performance Rescues Pakistan from Clean Sweep

In a surprising turn of events on January 21, Pakistan found an unexpected hero in Iftikhar Ahmed. They bowled out New Zealand for a mere 92 runs, securing a 42-run victory in the fifth Twenty20 international. This win prevented a clean sweep in the five-match series and showcased Pakistan’s resilience on a challenging day at Hagley Oval.

Iftikhar Ahmed’s Spectacular Bowling Display

While Pakistan’s total of 134-8 seemed insufficient, given their lowest score in the series, it turned out to be more than ample on a sub-standard pitch that offered significant grip and turn. The 33-year-old Iftikhar Ahmed emerged as the unlikely hero, claiming 3-11, a significant improvement from his previous best of 1-7. His crucial wickets included Tim Seifert, Matt Henry, and Ish Sodhi, while also contributing to the dismissal of Will Young and playing a part in Mark Chapman’s run-out.

“I just read the wicket; it was turning, so I tried to bowl wicket to wicket, and that was the key to success,” Iftikhar said, reflecting on his outstanding performance.

| Credit: AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan’s Batsmen Show Resilience

Pakistan’s veteran batsmen, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, continued to be the pillars of the team’s batting. Despite the slow pitch, Rizwan’s series average of 46 and Babar’s 213 runs at 53.34 played a crucial role in setting a foundation for Pakistan’s innings. However, Babar struggled on Sunday, scoring only 13 runs from 24 balls.

Series Reflection and T20 World Cup Preparation

The 4-1 series loss to New Zealand adds to Pakistan’s recent T20 woes, following a 3-0 defeat to Australia in a preceding three-test series. While the win is celebrated for avoiding a series whitewash, Pakistan acknowledges the need for introspection before the T20 World Cup later this year.

Captain Shaheen Afridi’s decision to bat on a challenging pitch, coupled with the debut of 20-year-old Haseebullah Khan, reflects the team’s strategic approach. Despite the loss, Fakhar Zaman’s impactful 33 runs off 15 balls provided some silver lining, but the overall batting performance was deemed lacking.

New Zealand’s Struggle and Iftikhar’s Pivotal Role

New Zealand, confident of a series sweep, faced batting difficulties from the onset. Rashid Ravindra’s early dismissal and Finn Allen’s modest 22 runs set the tone for a challenging chase. With Tim Seifert, Will Young, and Mark Chapman falling within the first 10 overs, Glenn Phillips became the mainstay but managed only 26 runs before his dismissal in the 18th over. Iftikhar Ahmed’s exceptional bowling quelled any hopes of a late revival.

“We were pretty happy with the score, but we were just outplayed in that second innings,” expressed New Zealand captain Mitch Santner, acknowledging Pakistan’s superior performance.

In conclusion, Pakistan’s unexpected triumph, fueled by Iftikhar Ahmed’s heroics, adds a thrilling twist to the series finale. As both teams regroup, Pakistan faces critical self-assessment ahead of the T20 World Cup, while New Zealand reflects on a missed opportunity for a clean sweep on home soil.


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