Abu Dhabi: If you are playing your first T20 international fixture in nine months and you were just two runs away from upsetting the World No. 1 side, then you are straight away ticking some of the right boxes — if not all of them.
Hence, New Zealand will be heading into the do-or-die second fixture against Pakistan with a lot of positives from their first outing.
The Kiwis are certainly a team that even Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmad would rate alongside his own — the best fielding side in world cricket. Pakistan may have made Australia look like lambs in these conditions in the UAE but the Kiwis ran them so close that they know they need to do more to keep the winning streak intact.
Mohammed Hafeez, who top-scored for Pakistan with a 36-ball 45 in their 148-6, two-run success on Wednesday night in Abu Dhabi, minced no words in accepting that and acknowledged New Zealand have sent a strong warning.
“New Zealand always brings something new in this format and surprises you,” he said. “They were excellent on the field and took some really outstanding catches on the night.
“We have another game coming up on Friday and I believe it’s going to be another tough game. We need to really work hard and hit all the areas to win against them.”
Hafeez said that coming into the contest with momentum behind them helped them get across the line.
“The momentum on our side was an advantage,” he said. “We have been successful in the shortest format of the game and that has provided the players the confidence at the moment.
The energy in the young Pakistan squad is tremendous and Hafeez is sure they all are capable of handling their own pressures.
“Everyone wants to perform and that a huge plus,” he said. “Each one of us wants to cash these moments. And I believe if we keep winning these tight matches, our confidence will rise.”
The New Zealand opener Colin Munro, who smashed 58 off 46 balls and put his team on course to achieving the target of 149 at one stage, felt that it wouldn’t be right to say his wicket was the turning point.
“To be honest, I was trying to get my team to a good position and play as well as I could,” he said. “That’s the nature of this game, and if you are lucky, then generate the strike rate. It would have been nice to carry on and make a 70 or 80 not out to take the game home but unfortunately it wasn’t that.”
Munro felt his team just need to pick themselves up and look ahead to the next match.
“I don’t think we can look too down from our first game and there are two days to turn it around,” he said. “We need to keep building and come back strongly to level the series, and then go to that big game, hopefully.”
Munro gave New Zealand a great start and the 50 was on the board in just five overs.
“I wouldn’t say we lost our way but they bowled really well,” he added. “I lost my wicket and then Kane Williamson got out. After the Powerplay, the spinners came in and squeezed it. We need to give credit to them. They know these conditions really well and suited them very well tonight.
“There are positive that we would like to discuss before the next match. We bowled well at the start and in the middle. Our fielding was outstanding and that’s the benchmark we have set and that’s why we were straight up there. We now have two days to turn it around and hopefully, we can come out on the right side and make it 1-1.”