By Syed Khalid Mahmood
It was after ages when New Zealand finally managed to overpower Pakistan in any form of the game. At times it had looked as if the Black Caps would never be able to do it because they were often found wanting in putting their acts together against Pakistan.
I don't know how Daniel Vettori mustered the courage to keep his team motivated in the semifinals at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on October 3 because Pakistan seemed to have taken them for granted.
Although New Zealand had emerged the Group B champions after the league matches, Pakistan, having ended as the runners-up in the Group A, would have preferred taking them on in semifinals rather than England if they were given a choice.
Because New Zealand are one team having been at the receiving end while encountering Pakistan for so long now. There is a long list of matches in the ICC tournaments where New Zealand have been undone by Pakistan after having looked so good before the game.
Martin Crowe and company might never forget the double disaster against Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup when they had crashed after being the only unbeaten team in the competition for weeks. They had overpowered every other team and were through to the semifinals before taking on Pakistan in their last league fixture.
Although it didn't matter much in the context of the tournament for them but it certainly was a warning bell for the hosts because they were blown away by Pakistan in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
The New Zealanders discovered only a few days later that they had actually dug their grave by losing the league encounter to Pakistan, who stunned them in the semifinals as well much to the disappoinment of their fans who anticipated them running away with the crown after seven successive victories against different nations.
New Zealand's hopes of snatching the title were dashed by Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup in England as well. Most recently they were whacked by Pakistan in the ICC World Twenty20 semifinals in England.
History was against them when New Zealand took the field against Pakistan even though the venue was more suited to their team in the Champions Trophy semifinals against Pakistan. The decision of the Pakistan skipper, Younis Khan, to bat first after calling correctly also passed the impression that they were least impressed by the credentials of their opponents.
Vettori marshalled his troops as shrewdly as he always does. He led by example and his team rose to the occasion. They might have been jolted by Pakistan's last wicket stand but they didn't lose heart and successfully chased down the target that wasn't all that big.
October 4, 2009