Pakistan and New Zealand squared off in the ICC Women’s Championship series with divergent expectations. Pakistan was coming off a disastrous World Cup as the only team without a win in the entire tournament. The team’s veteran captain, Sana Mir, was openly criticised by the management and replaced with their powerhouse all-rounder, Bismah Maroof.
The team’s veteran captain Sana Mir was replaced with the powerhouse all-rounder, Bismah Maroof
The Black Caps, on the other hand, were looking to consolidate on their winning streak against Pakistan. While New Zealand won the ODI series 2-1, Pakistan walk away with a spring in their step after their win the third and last match. The series, played from 31st October to 14th November 2017, is being hosted in Pakistan’s adopted home Sharjah, and consists of 3 ODI games and 4 upcoming T20I matches.
The series is part of the second version of the ICC Women’s Championship (the first one ran from 2014-16). The format of the Championship entails that eight teams (namely India, Pakistan, Australia, England, West Indies, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka) play one another in 3-match ODI series. This edition of the Championship will span from 2017 to 2020. The top four teams will gain direct qualification for the World Cup in 2021. The remaining teams will be have to fight it out for their spot in additional ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifiers. This format has meant that each match has dual significance; apart from being an international cricket match, each win means 2 points towards qualification.
Prior to the series, Pakistan and New Zealand had faced each other in a total of 10 ODIs, with New Zealand prevailing in every encounter. Furthermore, Pakistan has not registered ODI wins against three other major teams: Australia, England and India. Taken in context, being a relatively young team on the international circuit, this is not cause for alarm. However, a win would not only be a symbolic victory, but also contribute immensely towards the team’s overall World Cup bid.
Table: Pakistan vs New Zealand in ODIs prior to ICC Women’s Championship 2017 series
The first match of the series was a nail-biter as Pakistan came heartbreakingly close to their first win against New Zealand. The Black Caps posted a gettable 240-run target, featuring a stunning knock from opener Sophie Devine who made 103 runs off 119 balls. Spinners Javeria Khan and Sadia Yousuf dented New Zealand’s chances of getting a huge target by stymying the opening partnership. Sana Mir, with her off-breaks, did her bit to keep New Zealand from settling.
In the chase, after losing opener Ayesha Zafar, both Nahida Khan and Javeria Khan scored a half-century each. Nahida and Javeria shared a 77-run partnership to set up Pakistan perfectly. Captain Bismah Maroof (41 runs) and Sidra Ameen (33 runs) put Pakistan within touching distance of the target. When Sidra left the crease in the 43rd over, Pakistan were 199 for 5, after which the batting order quickly disintegrated: Iram Javed (19) out when Pakistan were 217; Sana Mir (8) run-out at 224; Sidra Nawaz (6) out at 232; Diana Baig (3) gone at 232 and, finally, Sadia Yousaf (0) out at 232. All out in the 49th over. Pakistan were short of the target by just 8 runs.
Nahida Khan and Javeria Khan scored a half-century each in the game
While fast-bowler Holly Huddleston took early wickets, it was the perfect storm of confused running between the wickets and some excellent bowling by young leg spinner Amelia Kerr and off spinner Leigh Kasperek that undid the Pakistani lower order.
A look at past encounters shows that in the 7 matches against New Zealand where Pakistan has batted first, they have been dismissed for extremely low totals on 5 occasions. In the other 2 instances where Pakistan has crossed 200 while batting first (both in 2016), only once has New Zealand required more than 40 overs to chase it down.
This familiar pattern could be seen in Pakistan’s second ODI on November 2 at Sharjah where Pakistan, batting first, were dismissed for 147 runs. Pakistan consistently lost wickets in the course of their innings, with early dismissals of Ayesha Zafar and Javeria Khan. Opener Nahida Khan (39 runs) and captain Bismah Maroof (36 runs) posted a partnership of 46 runs, however wickets fell cheaply after that. Sana Mir put up some resistance by adding 31 runs to the total while the lower order collapsed around her. Amelia Kerr’s leg spin was the pick of the New Zealand bowling as she took 3 wickets for 35 runs, well supported by Hannah Rowe and Leigh Kasperek.
Amelia Kerr’s leg spin was the pick of the New Zealand bowling as she took 3 wickets for 35 runs in the game
In response, New Zealand faced no difficulty chasing down the total in 24 overs while losing just 3 wickets. Sophie Devine showcased her extremely fine form as she took the player of the match award for her impressive 62 runs from 48 balls. The Black Caps were up 2-0.
Pakistan turned the tables on their opponents with some stellar bowling and keeping their nerve in the chase to win their first ever ODI against New Zealand.
New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat first, hoping to put up a decent target before turning up the pressure on Pakistan’s batting order. However their plans were disrupted when the in-form Sophie Devine was run-out in the second over of the match. Quickly Sana Mir ramped up the pressure by picking captain Suzie Bates. By the eleventh over, the top 3 batsmen were back in the pavilion with Amy Satterthwaite (5) losing her wicket to Aiman Anwer; by then New Zealand were 28/3.
The New Zealand middle-order showed some fight with Sam Curtis making a valiant 50 runs off 77 balls. However Sana Mir demolished the lower order, dismissing New Zealand for 155 in 43.4 overs. Mir finished with figures of 3 wickets from 8.4 overs, giving away just 25 runs. Despite the low target, Pakistan batters took their time in a chase that was a team effort with the entire top order pitching in. Openers Nahida Khan (23) and Sidra Ameen (32) posted a stand of 40 runs. Javeria Khan added 29 runs before being dismissed by Anna Peterson. Pakistan lost 2 wickets in quick succession around the 30 over mark and it seemed that a collapse might be in the offing. However Bismah Maroof played a captain’s knock of 36 runs from 69 balls to steady to ship. The match came down to the 49th over and the measured pace of the chase can be demonstrated by the fact that the last boundary of the innings was hit in the 29th over. Deservingly, Mir came in to play a small cameo of 12 runs to see Pakistan through to the end. It was a consummate effort, from great fielding to sublime bowling.
The Pakistani women’s team is going from strength to strength, registering a number of firsts in its short international career. Much like the smooth change of guard in the T20Is, the ODI team, while under Maroof’s capable leadership, still benefits from the experienced former captain Sana Mir in their midst. After a disappointing World Cup run, questions were being raised about Pakistan’s prowess in the one-day arena. By securing a win over a major international side, Pakistan’s ODI side has received a much-needed boost.
The Pakistani women’s team is going from strength to strength, registering a number of firsts in its short international career.
Furthermore, it seems that Pakistan is rapidly closing the gap between itself and the top teams in world. By losing to New Zealand with a small margin in the first ODI, this hopefully signals the end of one-sided encounters and ushers in an era of more competitive cricket for fans. In wake of its win in the last match, Pakistan stands at number 5 in the ICC Women's Championship points table, above the West Indies. If Pakistan are to make a realistic bid for qualification within the Championship, they will have to combine consistent wins with a good net run-rate.