November 10, 2009

Black Caps survive unlikely late flourish


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

How often would you expect any team having lost its ninth wicket for 101 in the 34th over still be in the reckoning for a pursuit of a target of 213 in 50 overs with the number 10 and 11 out in the middle?

The match would have been deemed as good as over when the ninth wicket fell with more than one hundred still needed at over run a ball for nearly 16 overs. That would have been the case in normal circumstances.

It’s a different story altogether when the Pakistanis take the field. You can never take them for granted. Their last pair can do wonders with the bat and their non-regular bowlers can return the dream figures.

Daniel Vettori must have learnt a few lessons at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, on November 9 where New Zealand survived the unlikeliest of late flourishes to pocket the ODI series.

Vettori himself was the ‘culprit’ because the turnaround began with his penultimate over in which Mohammad Aamer smashed him for three sixes. I don’t recall the champion left-spinner having been whacked this way in any form of the game by any batsman let alone by any tail-ender.

Even Vettori might not have anticipated what was in store for him and his team over the next one hour or so. Left-handed Aamer started batting in the manner that would have made Sir Garfield Sobers proud and last man Saeed Ajmal, who was at sea initially, suddenly gained the confidence of Sir Donald Bradman to toy with the bowling.

Aamer and Saeed had fun with the New Zealand bowling and the action was a source of entertainment for the large number of supporters at the ground who had earlier been quiet after the dismal performance of the Pakistan batsmen.

The crowd certainly got their money’s worth as the match went into the final over and New Zealand barely got home after having been poised for a resounding win.

Pakistan have been known for shattering the dreams of New Zealand and very nearly they did it again against the run of play. The New Zealanders would now have reasons to value their every victory over Pakistan after the narrow escape in the third and final game.

Although New Zealand managed to clinch the series they failed to dominate it after being in the driving seat in the last two games. They were restricted to just over 300 in the second match when a total in the region of 350 was always on the cards after the explosive start to their innings.

They were expected to post a total in the vicinity of 280, if not 300, in the third encounter but they made a mess of the final overs to be bowled out for 212. They were 130 odd for the loss of only two wickets at the halfway stage of their innings but they couldn’t even bat out their 50 overs.

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