By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Daniel Vettori, after having tackled every opposition in various corners of the world, must have realized that nothing could be taken for granted when he’s playing against Pakistan in any form of the game.
I am not sure if the New Zealand skipper, otherwise a mentally tough character, has analyzed the situation yet or he’s just going through the motions. Obviously he would have been left wondering at the events having unfolded of late.
He had experienced it in the third and final One-day International at Abu Dhabi where Pakistan’s last pair had very nearly stolen the match against all odds. Vettori must have been shocked by the manner in which he was treated by the tail-enders.
I don’t think the champion left-arm spinner would have been deposited to the fence so swiftly by any of the top order batsmen in any form of the game as the 17-year-old Pakistan newcomer Mohammad Aamer did him at Abu Dhabi. It was totally against the run of play in the game where the front-line batsmen of either side had struggled to get on top of the bowling.
Vettori and his boys had to endure greater amusement in the first Test against Pakistan at the University Oval in Dunedin that ended on November 28. Although New Zealand won the game in the end by 32 runs in the last session of the fifth and final day but they must have been left wondering if the contest deserved to go that far.
New Zealand had overcome a dreaded start followed by a middle-order collapse to post a commanding first innings total of 429 in their first innings with the skipper himself leading the charge with a superb 99.
Then a brilliant spell of fast bowling from Chris Martin and Shane Bond exposed Pakistan’s brittle top-order and even the experienced duo of Mohammad Yousuf and Shoaib Malik could not come to terms with the fiery fast bowling. Pakistan had been reduced to 85 for five and the Black Caps were in complete control of the situation.
A dramatic over from Bond changed the complexion of the game. Like the previous ones of the spell it was yet another brilliant over in which debutant Umar Akmal was at sea. Bond produced a magnificent lifter from good-length spot that had Umar fending.
The ball spooned in the air but the slip fieldsman reacted late and the catch was spilled. In the same over an outside edge was not plucked by the gully fielder and there was not much more the bowler could have done to take a wicket. It’s not often when two chances are floored in the same floor.
Lifted by the two dropped catches in an over Umar then went after the bowling fearlessly and the runs started flowing. He didn’t stop until Bond returned to snare him but not before he had scored 129 and Pakistan eventually reduced the first innings deficit to double digits.
New Zealand had extended their overall lead to the vicinity of 200 with the loss of only two wickets when another mishap derailed them. The run out of Ross Taylor opened the floodgates and the hosts crashed to 153 all out after being 87 for two.
Set to score 251, Pakistan lost their top three batsmen for only 24 but the match still remained opened until the last wicket fell.
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