Cricket – Bracewell, Santner, Allen set up big win for New Zealand

New Zealand 131 for 1 (Allen 62, Conway 49*, Shadab 1-26) beat Pakistan 130 for 7 (Bracewell 2-11, Santner 2-27, Southee 2-31) by nine wickets

On a subcontinental-style pitch in Christchurch, New Zealand’s spin quartet, led by offspinner Michael Bracewell, pinned down Pakistan to a below-par 130 for 7 and set up the hosts’ second successive victory in the tri-series.

Bracewell, who is more of a batting allrounder for Wellington Firebirds, followed up his 2 for 14 against Bangladesh with an even miserly 2 for 11 on Tuesday. Left-arm fingerspinner Mitchell Santner marked his return from paternity break with 2 for 27 while legspinner Ish Sodhi took 1 for 23. Glenn Phillips also pitched in with an over of part-time offspin as Kane Williamson rifled through his spin options. Thirteen overs were bowled by spinners – the most by New Zealand in a T20I innings – on a day when Trent Boult was rested and Lockie Ferguson and Adam Milne were nursing abdominal injuries.

That Pakistan couldn’t score a single six in their innings summed up the dominance of New Zealand’s spinners. It was the first completed T20I innings in New Zealand without a single six in 77 games. Finn Allen, who was picked ahead of Martin Guptill once again, alone hit six sixes during his 42-ball 62 as New Zealand coasted home with plenty to spare.

Spin to win

Bracewell isn’t a big turner of the ball – there wasn’t big turn on offer either – but with drift and bounce, he ensured Pakistan never got away. He was the only bowler to have not conceded a boundary on the day.

After having bowled six dots to Rizwan, Bracewell dared him to go over the top by bringing Jimmy Neesham into the circle from long-on. Rizwan swung hard but could not find elevation to clear Neesham at mid-on, falling for 16 off 17 balls. Bracewell then found sharp drift to scratch Babar’s outside edge, which was well held by Conway.

Pakistan’s middle-order batters then sleepwalked through their innings, going 34 balls without a boundary. Asif Ali and Iftikhar Ahmed ended the drought and hit three fours each, but it was not enough to drag Pakistan to a competitive total. Tim Southee did his bit at the death by dismissing Iftikhar and Mohammad Nawaz off successive balls in the last over.

Outside of the powerplay, Santner cut his pace down and drew mis-hits from Shadab Khan and Shan Masood. Shadab was promoted to No.4 once again – he has excelled as a pinch-hitter for Islamabad United in the PSL – but he holed out to long-on on Tuesday.

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Pakistan start well

Mohammad Rizwan gave Pakistan a jumpstart, picking off three fours in the first two overs. Santner took the new ball upon return but uncharacteristically missed his lengths and lines in his first over which cost New Zealand 11 runs. Then when Blair Tickner, who got a game in place of Boult, darted one on the pads, Babar Azam whipped it firmly over midwicket. Pakistan moved to 24 for 0 in three overs.

Allen makes his case for the T20 World Cup

Allen manufactured scoring opportunities by dashing out of the crease or backing away. He hit full tilt when he launched a six onto the roof of the Hagley Oval. Conway, meanwhile, sat back and complemented Allen by knocking the ball into the gaps.

With Allen showing explosive power at the top, New Zealand are giving him a decent run, in place of Guptill, in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup. After managing scores of only 13 and 16 earlier in the tri-series, Allen made his case for the T20 World Cup in Australia with a 31-ball half-century on a pitch where most other batters struggled.

Pakistan, perhaps, missed a trick and made New Zealand’s job easier by holding spin back until the seventh over. And when Shadab finally came into the attack, Allen hoicked him over the leg side for a massive six.

By the time Shadab struck to have Allen stumped in the 14th over, New Zealand were just 14 runs away from victory. Conway and Williamson sealed the deal, a result that keeps Bangladesh alive in the tri-series.

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