Ashraf Ali Siddiqui comments on the latest in
Pak-NZ Series Drawn – Pakistan team apparently was in sight of victory but the New Zealand team had other ideas. Left-handed NZ batsman Mark Chapman played an innings of 104 not out off 57 balls, hitting four sixes and 11 fours, launching a blistering counterattack to deliver a six-wicket victory for New Zealand as the Black Caps finish the five-match series level at 2-2. Pakistan were 2-0 up after the opening two games but New Zealand hit back when they edged a cliffhanger in the third match and after the fourth game was washed out, Chapman frustrated Pakistani team’s ambitions.
Mark Chapman played for Hong Kong team a decade before and joined the NZ cricket side and in this match Chapman was up against arguably the best bowling attack in the world but these were favourable batting conditions and he was having the best 10 days of his entire career. Alongside Daryl Mitchell, Chapman had to pick up the pieces and lay the foundations of an unlikely late heist. When Mitchell was dismissed 15, New Zealand found themselves staring at the brink at 73-4 after 10 overs, requiring 121 in the next 10. Chapman was already motoring along at 33 off 24, showing the glimpses of the knockout counterpunch he was about to land on the visitors after the drinks break.
Babar gave the ball to Faheem and Chapman duly dispatched him for three boundaries off his four deliveries before bringing up his half-century with a reverse-sweep off Shadab Khan in the next over. While Chapman was busy turning everything he touched into gold, the Islamabad all-round duo of Faheem and Shadab saw everything they gripped crumble to dust in this series. 31 runs came in those two overs, signaling a momentum shift that took the game away from Pakistan in front of a stunned Rawalpindi crowd. By the time Faheem prepared to ball the final over, New Zealand required three off six to complete a dramatic and unlikely turnaround not only in the game but also in the series that they leveled 2-2 after being 2-0 down.
Earlier, Pakistan started before losing three wickets in quick succession. Skipper Babar Azam was caught in the deep off Blair Tickner (3-33) for 19 before Mohammad Haris depar¬ted first ball with Saim Ayub walking soon after as Pakistan slipped to 52-3. But Rizwan restored momentum with a 71-run stand with Iftikhar and a 68-run partnership with Imad. Needing two runs off the last ball to complete his second century in the format, Rizwan could not reach the landmark and ultimately Pakistan could not win. Opener Mohammad Rizwan’s 98 not out off 62 balls, featuring four sixes and seven fours, and brisk knocks from Iftikhar Ahmed (36) and Imad Wasim (31) had steered Pakistan to 193-5 after they had been put into bat.
Imad and Shaheen Afridi then picked two wickets each as Pakistan reduced New Zealand to 73-4 before Chapman took the attack to Pakistan alongside James Neesham, who clobbered two sixes and four fours in an unbeaten 25-ball 45. Having raised his 50 off 30 balls, Chapman completed his 100 off 54. He and Neesham made 121 off 61. The plaudits understandably went to Chapman though for his unbeaten 104 off 57 deliveries. Chapman’s first T20I century was the coup de grâce of an incredible series that saw the left-hander score the most runs by any batsman in a series of five or less matches in T20I history. That Chapman was only dismissed once in the entire series, going unbeaten in the final four games, makes this an even more remarkable achievement and skipper Tom Latham was justified in calling it the one of the best innings they had seen. The Weekender
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