Robinson and O'Rourke lead New Zealand to 4-run win over Pakistan in 4th T20

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Opening batter Tim Robinson and fast bowler Will O’Rourke helped inexperienced New Zealand pull off four-run win over Pakistan on Thursday in the fourth Twenty20 for a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.

Robinson (51) hit his maiden T20 half-century in New Zealand’s par-total of 178-7 after Pakistan aimed to test its bench strength and rested its two frontline fast bowlers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah.

O’Rourke, playing in only his second T20, struck twice in the power play for the key wickets of Babar Azam (5) and Saim Ayub (22) before dismissing Iftikhar Ahmed (23) in his return spell to restrict Pakistan at 174-8.

O’Rourke finished with economical figures of 3-27 as Pakistan felt the absence of injured Mohammad Rizwan up in the batting order.

“The way we have learned from game to game is hugely important, fortunately, we are able to come on the right side today,” New Zealand captain Michael Bracewell said. “It’s a huge positive for us that we are able to expose new guys, we backed Neesham to bowl those hard overs and he was able to close out today.”

Fakhar Zaman, one of the five changes Pakistan made from the side which lost the third game by seven wickets, top-scored with 61 off 45 balls, but couldn’t take Pakistan home when he holed out in the deep in the 18th over.

Imad Wasim, playing his first game after coming out of retirement for the T20 World Cup, remained unbeaten on 22 off 11 balls as he could struck only five runs off James Neesham’s final two balls with Pakistan needing 10 for victory.

“We lost 3-4 wickets in powerplay but Fakhar’s innings was outstanding,” Babar said. “We wanted to chase it with positive intent but we were unable to do so. When you lose back to back wickets, you need a few overs to catch up but that we got derailed in that period.”

Pakistan suffered an injury setback ahead of the game when Rizwan and Irfan Khan were ruled out of the remainder of the series due to hamstring injury they sustained during the third game.

New Zealand fluffed two catching opportunities in an eventful power play when Neesham couldn’t hold onto Ayub’s miscued pull at square leg and Mark Chapman dropped a regulation catch of Usman Khan (16) at extra cover.

Usman, who was banned by the Emirates Cricket Board for switching his allegiance for his country of birth, had a disappointing series to stake his claims for the T20 World Cup.

The right-hander Usman, who also donned the wicketkeeping gloves in the absence of Rizwan, holed out at mid-on inside the power play to have a tally of only 28 runs in three games.

Zaman and Ahmed gave Pakistan chase a momentum with a 59-run stand before both perished while looking for big shots with Bracewell maneuvering his bowlers intelligently in the death overs.

Earlier, after being put into bat Tom Blundell, playing his first game of the series after Tim Seifert was ruled out due to sore back, struck a whirlwind 28 off 15 balls and Robinson showed his mettle by striking four boundaries and two sixes.

Left-arm spinner Wasim was rusty in his return to international cricket, and conceded 14 runs in his first over before Blundell top-edged pull off Zaman Khan (1-35) and got caught by Usama Mir in the 5th over.

Robinson departed soon after raising his half-century off 34 balls when he got caught on the edge of mid-on boundary by Ahmed off Abbas Afridi’s (3-20) low full toss as Pakistan recovered in the second half of the innings.

Chapman, whose unbeaten 87 had propelled New Zealand to seven-wicket win in the third game at Rawalpindi, was spectacularly caught by diving Shadab Khan at extra covers for eight and Afridi struck off his final two deliveries by dismissing Bracewell (27) and Josh Clarkson.

New Zealand is touring Pakistan without its nine frontline T20 players busy playing in the Indian Premier League but its bench strength, which was bowled out for 90 runs in the second T20, has since then given the home team plenty of selection headaches ahead of the T20 World Cup.

The final game of the series will be played in Lahore on Saturday.


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