Babar Azam of Pakistan goes to his 100 runs during the 3rd KFC T20 International match between South Africa and Pakistan at SuperSport Park on April 14 2021 in Pretoria. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEE WARREN
Babar Azam of Pakistan goes to his 100 runs during the 3rd KFC T20 International match between South Africa and Pakistan at SuperSport Park on April 14 2021 in Pretoria. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEE WARREN

Bengaluru — Pakistan underlined their credentials as early T20 World Cup favourites when they held their nerve to beat New Zealand by five wickets in Sharjah on Tuesday and secure a second straight victory in the tournament.

Chasing a modest 135 for victory after pace bowler Haris Rauf choked out New Zealand with four wickets, Pakistan were in trouble at 69/4 but crossed the line in 18.4 overs for a fine start in their bid for a second championship.

Mohammad Rizwan top-scored with 33 while Shoaib Malik (26 not out) and Asif Ali (27 not out) guided them home.

The Group II contest was played against the backdrop of bad blood between the sides after New Zealand abruptly abandoned  a limited-overs tour of Pakistan last month citing a security alert. England followed suit in a double blow.

But Pakistan, on a high after beating  arch-rivals India in their Super 12 stage opener, channelled any lingering anger as they restricted New Zealand to 134/8 as Rauf picked up 4/22 before their batsmen sealed a thrilling victory.

Skipper Babar Azam kept faith with the 11 that hammered India and his decision to bowl after winning the toss paid off as they restricted New Zealand to 42/1 in the powerplay.

New Zealand struggled to release the handbrake as Pakistan continued to apply pressure and Rauf took two wickets in three balls in the 18th over to ensure there were no late fireworks.

Opener Daryl Mitchell (27), skipper Kane Williamson (25) and Devon Conway (27) all got good starts for New Zealand but were unable to build on them.

Reuters

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