ABU DHABI: Pakistan defeated New Zealand by 2 runs in the first Twenty20 international played in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Pakistan, after winning the toss, scored 148-6. Chasing the target, New Zealand could only score 146 at the loss of six wickets in its 20 overs.
Mohammad Hafeez top-scored with a 36-ball 45 studded with five boundaries and two sixes while skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (34) and Asif Ali (24) were the other main contributors.
Hafeez and Ali added 67 for the third wicket after Pakistan were struggling at 10-2.
For New Zealand, fast bowler Adam Milne finished with 2-28.
Imad Wasim picked up three wickets and also scored 10 of the last two balls during Pakistan’s batting which made the difference.
Pakistan, who are on a roll after a 3-0 whitewash of Australia on Sunday, brought back left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi in place of another fast bowler Usman Shinwari.
New Zealand left out express paceman Lockie Ferguson and included both spinners Ish Sodhi and Ajaz Patel.
The remaining two matches are in Dubai on Friday and Sunday.
Pakistan maintained their top spot in the ICC T20 ranking with a 3-0 whitewash of Australia in Dubai on Sunday, cementing their place as the leading lights of the game’s shortest format.
Speaking to the media, Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed admitted New Zealand, two points behind Australia in the world rankings having played three fewer matches, will be a tougher opponent.
“They [New Zealand] have a strong team with ideal batsmen for T20 and a balanced bowling attack so we need to set the tone from the first game by winning it,” said Sarfraz.
He added, “We want to carry forward the winning momentum of the Australia series.”
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is also aware of the threat posed by Pakistan and said his team needed to be at their best to beat the top team.
“Obviously, Pakistan are a strong side,” said Williamson.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain, wicketkeeper), Shaheen Shah Afridi, Asif Ali, Hassan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Babar Azam, Sahibzada Farhan, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Waqas Maqsood, Usman Khan Shinwari, Hussain Talat, Imad Wasim, Fakhar Zaman
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Mark Chapman, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips (wicketkeeper), Seth Rance, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor