5 Takeaways from the first Pakistan vs. New Zealand ODI

The hosts clinched the first ODI by 6 wickets, with Naseem Shah taking 5 wickets while Mohammad Rizwan made 77*.

Naseem Shah

It just might be true that Naseem Shah is better at ODI cricket than he is at the other two formats since he now has 15 scalps in just four 50-over games - the most by any bowler after four outings. Regardless of the phase of the game, the tearaway quick from Lower Dir remains a wicket-taking option, a notion only furthered by the fact that he removed Devon Conway in his first over of the game before taking four more wickets at the death, clattering the stumps on three occasions. He mixes his length and pace to great measure, with his back-of-the-length deliveries in the latter half of the innings frequently unplayable – something Ben Stokes can lay testament to. With his Player of the Match effort of 5/57 in the first ODI, the fiery teenager has already recorded two 5-fers in his young career, with many more to come in years to follow.

Pakistan’s Spin Attack

In an ODI World Cup year, that too in India, having a formidable spin bowling attack is essential for the success of any team which hopes to lift the trophy. Pakistan’s spinners, in the absence of their premier leg spinner Shadab Khan, sent down 24 overs out of 50, conceding only 98 runs whilst accounting for 3 wickets. While Mohammad Nawaz was at his miserly best, Salman Ali Agha provided a decent buffer as the sixth bowling option, and debutant Usama Mir made quite the impression, removing two of New Zealand’s best players of spin in Kane Williamson and Tom Latham to manage figures of 2/42 in his quota of 10 overs. His dismissal of Williamson, in particular, was a sight for sore eyes, hitting the top of the off stump with a classic leg-break delivery – every wrist spinner’s dream wicket.

Babar Azam, the Captain

Babar Azam’s captaincy has constantly come under the scanner in the recent past, with the under-fire skipper copping a fair bit of (rather undue) criticism in press conferences and a regime change in the PCB casting a cloud of further uncertainty over the future of his leadership. That said, the 28-year-old batting behemoth’s bowling changes and field placements were both on the button in the series opener – who now boasts a record of 13 victories in 19 matches as Pakistan captain in the 50-over format, winning 9 out of the last 10. A strong showing vs. New Zealand in the first game in Karachi could potentially quell any rumors of the administrators stripping him of his ODI leadership duties.

Top Order Strength

Anyone who has been following Pakistan’s ODI team closely since the last half decade or so will know that the men in green arguably possess one of the leading top orders in world cricket. Whilst the in-form Imam-ul-Haq was dismissed cheaply on the night, skipper Babar Azam, after having survived two leg before wicket shouts, delivered the goods yet again in the 50-over format, scoring a stellar 66, which took his team within 90 runs of the target, required at less than 7 runs an over, in a game which Pakistan eventually won by 6 wickets. More importantly, however, it was Fakhar Zaman who, after being originally ignored from the list of ODI probables for this series, silenced his critics with a well-constructed innings of 56 runs, setting the tone for Pakistan’s chase. Based on the evidence presented in this match and across a vast period of time, it would be foolhardy to tinker with Pakistan’s top 3, all of whom average a fifty-plus score in less than three ODI innings.

Best Innings/50+ for Pakistan batsmen in ODIs (minimum ten 50+ scores)

Player

Inns

Runs

Ave

SR

100s

50s

50+

Inns/50+

Babar Azam

91

4730

59.9

89.6

17

23

40

2.28

Imam-ul-Haq

55

2539

51.8

82.8

9

14

23

2.39

Haris Sohail

42

1717

46.4

85.9

2

14

16

2.63

Fakhar Zaman

63

2684

45.5

93.2

7

15

22

2.86

Zaheer Abbas

60

2572

47.6

84.8

7

13

20

3.00

Mohammad Yousuf

267

9554

42.1

74.9

15

62

77

3.47

Azhar Ali

53

1845

36.9

74.5

3

12

15

3.53

Michael Bracewell

In a game that was mostly one-sided throughout, there was not much to write home about for New Zealand, as the touring side were consistently dominated by Pakistan for the stretch of the 98.1 completed overs. There was one silver lining for the Black Caps, however, which came in the form of off-spin bowling all-rounder Michael Bracewell, who played the hand of a lone warrior for his team, starring with both bat and ball, first top-scoring for the Kiwis with 43 valuable runs, and then dismissing both Pakistan openers to record figures of 2/44 in ten overs – the best bowling figures by a New Zealander on the day. Where none of the visitors’ fabled stars clicked, Bracewell shined bright as perhaps the only positive for his team, providing good utility across all facets of the game. He could well prove to be a crucial cog in New Zealand’s ODI machine come the World Cup, roughly nine months from now.

Bonus

Whilst the top order had more or less killed the game for Pakistan, there was still a job to be done as the home team still required 88 runs in 81 deliveries, with seven wickets remaining in the bank. That is where Mohammad Rizwan and Haris Sohail ensured that the game was dead and buried, scoring an unbeaten 77 and a 23-ball 32, respectively – the former taking his team across the line after a rather sedate start to his innings and the latter providing much-needed impetus to take the pressure off Pakistan with his handsome pull shots. That said, it would be too soon to label their knocks as takeaways, given this was Haris’ first ODI in over two years and the fact that Rizwan averages under 32 with the bat after having played 50 matches in the format. Time will tell if both batters can successfully plug the gap in Pakistan’s middle order – an area that has been the ODI unit’s Achilles heel in the recent past.