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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Misbah takes Pakistan home

Pakistan continued to show they are masters of making mountains out of molehills, but Misbah-ul-Haq's supremely paced innings and Sohail Tanvir's nerveless hitting took them to a tense win in Napier that puts them 2-1 up. New Zealand had earlier showed the benefits of stacking their side with allrounders as they recovered from an all-too-familiar top-order collapse to post a respectable total but it didn't prove enough.
75 overs Pakistan 111 for 3 (Shehzad 42, Younis 18*, Misbah 15*) need another 152 runs to beat New Zealand 262 for 7 (Franklin 62, N McCullum 53*, Riaz 3-51)
New Zealand's top-order had perished to some daft shots, and Pakistan's batsmen continued that trend to keep the game balanced halfway through the chase in Napier. The visitors had their elder statesmen in the middle-order, Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, were steadily setting the stage for the explosive but unpredictable trio of Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Abdul Razzaq to take over.
Pakistan made a bright start to the chase, with Ahmed Shehzad smashing four fours in the first three overs. Mohammad Hafeez also began to cut loose after offspinner Nathan McCullum was brought into the attack as early as the sixth over - but he fell to an outstanding leaping catch from Ross Taylor at first slip.
Shehzad kept the boundary-count high, stepping out to launch Daniel Vettori over long-off for six and with Kamran Akmal peppering the off-side rope, Pakistan were coasting along. Both though fell to tame shots to short midwicket - Shehzad flicking and Kamran sweeping - to let New Zealand claw back into the game. That brought together Misbah and Younis who hit no boundaries but took the singles to prepare Pakistan for a late onslaught.
New Zealand 262 for 7 (Franklin 62, N McCullum 53*, Riaz 3-51) v Pakistan
New Zealand reaped the benefits of stacking their side with allrounders as they recovered from an all-too-familiar top-order collapse to post a respectable total against Pakistan. James Franklin made his third half-century in four innings to firm up a World Cup spot, and with the help of the McCullum brothers mounted a lower-order rescue that left a challenge ahead of Pakistan's batsmen.
The home side's famously fragile top order couldn't have asked for better conditions to get their groove back: a postcard-perfect day in Napier, the chance to bat first on a pancake-flat track, and the short boundaries and fast outfield at McLean Park.
All seemed to be going to plan when Martin Guptill and Jamie How provided New Zealand with a fast start. It was never more rosy than when Guptill hammered Abdul Razzaq over midwicket for six after having crashed him past backward point for four to leave the home side at 37 for 0 in six overs. That over cost Razzaq 12 runs, but he only conceded four more in a stifling seven-over opening burst.
The collapse started when Guptill played the first of a wide variety of bad shots from New Zealand's batsmen to get themselves out. He flicked an amiable leg-stump delivery from Wahab Riaz to Younis Khan at midwicket in the seventh over. A string of dot balls from Razzaq in the next over prompted How to pull the first loose ball on offer imperiously, but straight to Umar Akmal at deep square leg. Three balls later, Ross Taylor chased a wide and full delivery and his expansive drive ended in first slip's hands. New Zealand had tumbled to 44 for 3.
Kane Williamson and Scott Styris then set about painstakingly rebuilding the innings, but just when the runs started to flow again, there was a brainfade and both batsmen were nearly at the same end after Williamson pushed the ball towards backward point. Styris was gone for 11 as Pakistan took control. Worse followed for the hosts when Williamson clubbed Mohammad Hafeez to long-on soon after.
Brendon McCullum then jumpstarted the innings with a typically energetic cameo. As always, he didn't let the match situation affect his game, belting a clutch of boundaries to race to a run-a-ball 37 before nicking an angling delivery from Wahab Riaz.
Franklin then took over, surviving some nervy moments and patiently working the ball around. He moved to 40 off 63 balls, ensuring New Zealand had the wickets in hand to capitalise on the batting Powerplay. Once the restrictions came on, he picked off four boundaries in the first two overs, before Shahid Afridi handcuffed him with the legstump line and had him holing out to deep fine leg in the 44th over.
The responsibility passed to Nathan McCullum with that wicket, and he answered with his maiden one-day half-century. He had plenty of wild swipes early on, before reeling off boundaries through cover and extra cover. His high-risk paddles off the quicks also paid off, yielding a couple of fours to fine leg. The highlight of the innings was a murderous carve over extra cover for six in the penultimate over.
Besides the resilience of their lower-order, New Zealand also had the indiscipline of the Pakistan bowling to thank, as 19 wides were sprayed. New Zealand smashed 170 runs in the second half of the innings, but that might still not be enough on a track which has nothing in it for the bowlers.
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