5 Takeaways from the third Pakistan vs. New Zealand ODI

The visitors clinched the series in the decider on the back of a belligerent knock by Glenn Phillips.

Fakhar Zaman’s Value

Prior to the start of this three-match ODI series, there was one big name missing from the list of probables handpicked by interim Chief Selector Shahid Khan Afridi to feature against New Zealand – that of Fakhar Zaman. The left-handed opener has been a mainstay in Pakistan’s ODI team ever since he stole all the headlines by starring in the oft-celebrated Champions Trophy campaign in 2017, having debuted in the tournament, ending it with a championship-winning hundred vs. arch-rivals India in the final – the stuff of literal legend, etched in cricket folklore for generations to come. Courtesy of a considerable amount of uproar on social media, the Navy seal from Katlang was a late entrant into the squad and made his opportunity count to the hilt, racking up a well-crafted half-century in the first game. He then went on to save Pakistan from utter humiliation in the third, scoring his eighth ODI ton as part of a commendable rescue act – his first-ever century on home soil. After witnessing both Shan Masood and Babar Azam lose their wickets cheaply, Fakhar piled up his runs in an extremely composed manner, playing the ball on merit, and punishing anything and everything that was within his arc. His experience was telling, as he soaked up all the pressure to deliver in a crunch game yet again, furthering his credentials of being a big-match player. A packed Karachi crowd – the most the coastal city had seen all home season – applauded their hero’s accomplishment with full fervor, and rightly so, as Fakhar has now amassed twenty-three fifty-plus scores in 65 ODI innings, thereby proving to the selection committee that his name should always be one of the first ones on the ODI team sheet.

Mohammad Rizwan at #4

There has been a lot of debate with respect to who should be occupying the number 4 spot in Pakistan’s ODI side, a debate which Mohammad Rizwan might have put to bed after a successful few outings vs. New Zealand, scoring 182 runs batting at two-drop – the most by any batter throughout three games – at a whopping average of 91. After an unbeaten match-winning innings of 77 in the first ODI, Rizwan delivered an identical knock in the series decider, only this time scoring his runs at a strike rate north of a hundred, coming in to bat in a challenging situation when Pakistan was reeling at 21 for two. Whilst he was bowled through the gate by Ish Sodhi in a particularly ugly manner, the wicketkeeper-batter was influential in keeping the scoreboard ticking during his mammoth 154-run partnership with Fakhar Zaman, which laid the platform for the lower middle-order to ultimately propel Pakistan’s first innings total to a competitive 280. The hallmark of his innings was his sweep shot, which he regularly used to alleviate pressure off his team, along with his running between the wickets, which was as agile as one would expect of the nuggety little warrior. Having scored three half-centuries in his last four innings in the 50-over format, Rizwan has now accumulated 742 runs in 20 innings batting at number four and boasts an average of 43.64 runs at the coveted position, which is significantly higher than his career average of 32.81 in ODI cricket. The aforementioned numbers suggest that Pakistan are sorted as far as Mohammad Rizwan’s role in the ODI team is concerned – something that had been fairly ambiguous up until now. In a World Cup year, this is a positive of gigantic proportions for Babar Azam’s unit.

Run Outs

Pakistan has had a rather rich and unwanted history with run out dismissals in ODI cricket since the format’s inception, with images of Inzamam-ul-Haq falling prey to the fielder’s arm, Jonty Rhodes, to be specific, still running fresh in the collective memories of cricket aficionados. Time and again, spectators have witnessed Pakistani batters make a mockery of their dashes to the other end, losing their wickets at the worst possible time in the context of the game, with today, of course, being no different, as the home team incurred two unforgivable run outs in the latter half of their batting innings. Both Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail found themselves short of the popping crease on the day, with New Zealand’s fielders not giving them an inch, being laser-focused in the outfield, living up to their reputation of being a clinical fielding unit. Haris’ exit was especially poor, as even though he would have been out by a country mile, the southpaw from Sialkot failed to ground his bat whilst attempting to complete a run – something that is absolutely inexcusable at this level. It can be argued that had Pakistan remained efficient in their running between the wickets in the final ODI, they could have added more runs to their eventual first innings score of 280 and consequently might have won the series – of course, some missed opportunities in the field could have done the same for the home side. To highlight Pakistan’s run out problem further, if we take a look at average run outs per innings for all Test-playing nations in ODI cricket since the 2019 World Cup in England, only Sri Lanka has a worse ratio than Pakistan.

Team

Matches

Run Outs

Per Match

Sri Lanka

36

28

0.78

Pakistan

23

15

0.65

Bangladesh

33

21

0.64

Afghanistan

18

9

0.50

Ireland

26

13

0.50

New Zealand

26

12

0.46

Zimbabwe

27

12

0.44

South Africa

28

10

0.36

West Indies

45

14

0.31

India

47

14

0.30

Australia

33

8

0.24

England

30

7

0.23

Salman Ali Agha

A lot of the discourse with respect to Pakistan’s squad for this ODI series revolved around the notion that there was a dearth of a genuine number 6 in the list of fifteen. All three of Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, and Mohammad Haris had been overlooked, with Salman Ali Agha appearing to be the only player who could potentially plug into that finisher role. By consistently scoring runs with the tail, the batting allrounder from Lahore had impressed in the five Tests at home that preceded the New Zealand ODIs, and continued to turn up trumps in the 50-over format, first by scoring a priceless cameo worth 45 runs with the bat, and then contributing notably with the ball in hand, returning outstanding figures of 2/42 from his quota of ten overs, claiming the vital scalps of Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell, which brought Pakistan back into the contest and helped them take the series decider right down to the wire. While these are still early days for Salman, the ODI player, he has passed his audition with flying colors by being able to provide utility across all three facets of the game to great effect, making one thing very clear: If the surfaces in India later this year offer any sort of turn whatsoever, Salman Ali Agha will be worth his weight in gold in the side.

New Zealand, Perennial Contenders

New Zealand have always been a side that, despite lacking a host of superstars in their playing XI, persistently punch above their weight on the global stage, thereby confirming their status as perennial contenders. The fact that they have repeatedly made it to finals of ICC tournaments is proof of this phenomenon, and this ability of theirs was once again on full display in Karachi, as in spite of losing quick wickets in the middle of their innings, they pulled through to the end to record a memorable ODI series victory away from home. Their savior of the night came in the form of the hard-hitting Glenn Phillips, who scored a career-best 63 not out off just 42 deliveries – his maiden ODI fifty – to take his team across the line, making that midwicket boundary his very own in the process, and so, deservedly bagged the Player of the Match award. Glenn’s mighty sixes proved to be the difference between both sides, as Pakistan was just not able to cope with his belligerence, falling short of victory by two wickets in the end. Staying true to their mantra forever, the Kiwis have shown to the world yet again that they can combine as a team to deliver results, not having to rely on individual brilliance. With the premier 50-over competition roughly nine months away, the Black Caps have demonstrated that they are well on course towards assembling a team that is well-rounded in all three departments and can once again threaten to lift the silverware.