All-rounder James Neesham held his nerve in the final over to give New Zealand a dramatic four-run win over Pakistan in the third T20 International (T20I) in Lahore on Monday (April 17) despite Iftikhar Ahmed's brilliant innings. Ahmed brought Pakistan back into the contest from 88-7 with a whirlwind 24-ball 60 as they attempted to chase down New Zealand's 163 for 5.
Needing 15 to win from Neesham's final over, he hit a six and a four to reduce the target to five off the last three deliveries. But Neesham had Ahmed caught at long-on by Daryl Mitchell and then after a dot ball dismissed last man Haris Rauf in the same manner. "It was a great game and it's satisfying to get across the line and keep the series alive," said visiting captain Tom Latham.
"I think the whole squad will take a lot of confidence from this match moving forward.
"The three early Pakistan wickets in the powerplay set us up and we pride ourselves on our fielding and keep the bar high every time we set foot into the middle."
Ahmed led the fightback with Faheem Ashraf as the pair added 61 for the eighth wicket, with Ashraf holing out after a 14-ball 27 studded with two sixes and as many fours. Ahmed smashed six sixes and three fours.
The victory means New Zealand trail the five-match series 2-1 after Pakistan won the first two games, by 88 and 38 runs, also in Lahore. The last two matches are in Rawalpindi on April 20 and 24.
Pakistan lost wickets at regular intervals with prolific opening pair Babar Azam (1) and Mohammad Rizwan (6) both gone by the fourth over with the score on just 17. Azam was caught at third man off pacer Adam Milne while Rizwan was found short of his crease after trying to take a sharp single.
Pakistan were further jolted by left-arm spinner Rachin Ravindra who dismissed Fakhar Zaman (17) and Imad Wasim for three while Saim Ayub fell to Neesham for 10. Ish Sodhi dismissed Shaheen Shah Afridi for six and Milne accounted for Shadab Khan for 16, leaving Pakistan reeling.
The hosts battled back thanks to Ahmed, but were bowled out from the final ball on 159. "We didn't bat well enough tonight," said Pakistan skipper Azam. "We kept losing wickets at crucial stages, because of which the pressure kept building throughout the run chase, but our bowling has been superb this series."
Earlier, New Zealand's innings was anchored by Latham's 64 after winning the toss. Latham, who hit seven fours and two sixes, added 65 for the third wicket with Mitchell who scored a 26-ball 33.
Mark Chapman made 16 not out off nine balls as New Zealand managed to score 51 in the last five overs. Shaheen -- playing his 50th T20I -- took 2 for 33 while his fellow pacer Rauf finished with 2 for 31.
New Zealand 163 for 5 in 20 overs (Tom Latham 64, Daryl Mitchell 33; Haris Rauf 2 for 31) beat Pakistan 159 in 20 overs (Iftikhar Ahmed 60, Faheem Ashraf 27; James Neesham 3 for 38) by 4 runs
Player of the match: Tom Latham