Babar Azam is acknowledged by crowd after his century as he walks off with teammate Iftikhar Ahmed during the second T20 match in Lahore Saturday night. AP
Captain Babar Azam scored an unbeaten century as Pakistan recorded another comfortable victory against depleted New Zealand, winning the second Twenty20 cricket international by 38 runs on Saturday night.
Babar hit 101 not out off 58 balls and anchored Pakistan to 192-4 after winning his second successive toss in two days and choosing to bat first.
New Zealand, which is touring Pakistan without eight frontline players busy playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and injured Kane Williamson, struggled to cope with fast bowler Haris Rauf (4-27) before its chase was restricted to 154-7. Pakistan leads the five-match series 2-0.
“I tried to bat till the end, utilise the last few overs and we managed to get a good total,” Babar said. “Our bowling line-up is excellent. We have got experienced bowlers and some exciting young bowlers.”
Pakistan’s cricketers celebrate the wicket of James Neesham (not pictured) during the second T20 match in Lahore. AFP
Babar provided Pakistan with a brisk start of 99 runs off 64 balls with Mohammad Rizwan, who made 50 off 34, before the home team had a mini-collapse when the Kiwis took three quick wickets.
Fast bowler Matt Henry (2-29), whose hat trick went in vain in the first game of the five-match series on Friday when Pakistan thumped New Zealand by 88 runs, dismissed Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman off successive deliveries before Saim Ayub survived the hat-trick ball.
Left-arm spinner Rachin Ravindra then had Pakistan at 102-3 when James Neesham held onto Saim’s slog sweep at deep square leg.
Babar completed his half century off 36 balls but took charge in the last three overs to raise his century off the next 22 deliveries with Iftikhar Ahmed, who remained 33 not out. Babar needed 16 in the last over to become the first captain to score three T20I hundreds.
He clobbered Neesham over mid-off for a six off the third ball in the final over before hitting the fast bowler for two boundaries off the last two deliveries on the offside to raise his superb hundred in front of his home crowd.
New Zealand had only one training session before the series at Lahore as it struggled to accelerate against Pakistan’s pace duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Zaman Khan in the powerplay. Rauf then ran through the middle-order with his deceptive bowling for the second consecutive day after notching his career best figures of 4-18 on Friday.
Captain Tom Latham (19) was trapped leg before wicket on the back foot by Shadab Khan off his second delivery and Chad Bowes scored 26 in 24 before he was beaten in the flight by Imad Wasim and clean bowled.
Mark Chapman (64 not out off 40 balls) showed some aggression with his fourth T20I half century as Rauf struck at regular intervals in the latter half of the innings.
“When Babar plays like that, you tip your hat,” Latham said. “We were a lot better than last night … it is a game of fine margins and can be fickle.” He said his team will “come back stronger.”
Lahore will host the third match on Monday before Rawalpindi stages the last two games of the series.
The T20 series will be followed by five one-day internationals with Rawalpindi and Karachi set to host the games.