Neesham laps up added responsibility
On Thursday, the first delivery Jimmy Neesham sent down turned out to be his last - it was deposited over long-on by Umar Akmal to seal a seven-wicket win for Pakistan. Friday, though, was sea away from that for Neesham, as he claimed 3 for 25 to help New Zealand defend 144 for a series-levelling win.
With Corey Anderson sitting out as a precautionary measure after he was hit on the helmet in the first T20, Neesham said he had to assume greater responsibility in the second, and that suited him fine. "In the last game, I didn't bowl till the last over which was a wee bit disappointing I suppose," he said. "But with Corey sitting out the game today, there was always going to be a little bit more responsibility on my shoulders with his overs missing. It was nice to have a little bit more responsibility."
Martin Guptill also missed the game with a tight hamstring and that meant Anton Devcich had to move up a spot in the batting order to open with Kane Williamson. He scored 21 off 20 in a 49-run stand at the top, before opening the bowling and claiming 2 for 16 with his part time left-arm spin. Neesham said Devcich's contributions had made a big difference to the side: "Anton has obviously bowled pretty well in this game and is a talented left-arm spinner, does a really good job for us when he comes into the team. And obviously his batting at the top of the order is coming along as well."
Devcich took the big wickets of Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Hafeez within the first three overs, and fast bowler Matt Henry added the scalp of Haris Sohail before the fielding restrictions were lifted. Getting wickets in the Powerplay, Neesham said, helped. "I think we put up a slightly above-par score with the bat, which is always helpful. And then when we got a couple of wickets early, in the first six overs - it's always a struggle for a chasing team to come back from that sort of start I suppose. And then obviously the Pakistan lads started to pull it back a bit towards the end, but then a couple of wickets killed it.
"So in the Twenty20 format, I think when a team is chasing, especially a subcontinent team like Pakistan, it's crucial to keep taking wickets through the innings."
The five-ODI series begins on Monday, and Neesham said he hoped New Zealand would start it better than they did the Tests and T20s, where they lost both their first games before coming back to level the series. "We've had a bit of a hiccup in the first match of both series so far, so hopefully we can come out in the first one-dayer and put up a stronger performance on the board."