Venue: National Cricket Bank Arena, Karachi (Pakistan)
Date: Friday, January 13, 2023
There is nothing better in ODI cricket than a winner takes all match to end a series. That is exactly what we have here as New Zealand and Pakistan each one win in Karachi, so whichever team wins this third game will get bragging rights until they meet again in the white ball game.
Given how clinical Pakistan was n the first match on Monday, it is surprising we are in this position. In that contest, teenage fast bowling sensation Nassem Shah had his way with the New Zealand batting lineup as he posted figures of 5/57 from his ten overs, spurring his country to victory. He was ably supported by a batting clinic – powered by Mohammad Rizwan and his unbeaten 77 – as Pakistan cruised to a six-wicket victory where the run rate never got away from them.
The second match was completely different. New Zealand was again the first tram to bat, and their target of 261 all out was only six runs better than their first match haul. That target proved defendable, with the quartet of spinners in the New Zealand side dominating the tempo of play. They frustrated Pakistan, giving them nothing to attack – though Babar Azam hit 79 off of 114 balls to give the hosts a chance – but the continual fall of wickets around him meant that the chase never looked to be on.
That sets this up perfectly, with Pakistan facing an interesting choice should they win the toss, given how dominant the New Zealand spin was on Wednesday.
The big takeaway from the second match is that Pakistan needs to figure out how to attack the New Zealand spin. Azam was very good, while Rizwan continued his excellent form from the first match. Even those two could only add 55 in a third-wicket stand that took 99 balls, way too many to have a realistic chance of running down the Black Caps. It will be interesting to see how their approach changes should New Zealand again bat first and reach 250 or more.
The New Zealand total was essentially built by combining Devon Conway and Kane Williamson. The pair smashed 186 of the Black Caps’ 251 runs, scoring early enough that a collapse that saw six wickets taken for just 37 runs still give the tourists a total to defend.
After going for a Golden Duck in the first match, Conway needed a performance. Even so, his 101 was beautifully hit down the stretch, even if he looked shaky in the early exchanges. Williamson is always a calm hand, and he was able to pull Conway through with him even after New Zealand lost opener Finn Allen for one after four balls to the dangerous Shah.
Pakistan is the favorite, but their middle order is worrying. If New Zealand can get to them without too much damage, it is hard to see where additional runs come from. New Zealand might sneak this as the team that is more mentally strong and has more belief when things start to go wrong.