Pakistan holds total sway
LAHORE - It was indeed a solidly relentless all-round display in the field throughout, as Pakistan blanked out the Black Caps with great authority, taking the third and last game of the series by a convincing margin of 66 runs, with a bit more than four overs to spare.
With this new-found consistency, having won 23 out of their last 31 games, Pakistan enters the truncated two-Test rubber with their morale and confidence pretty high. This was also Pakistan's seventh consecutive victory over the Kiwis.
As Shoaib Malik made his career-best score, 115, having a hand in three partnerships of 50-plus, Pakistan posted a huge 277, always a difficult prospect against the Pakistan attack under lights.
Even with a depleted side, with Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq and Imran Nazir rested, the Pakistanis held such sway that by the end of the 30th over the asking rate was already 7 an over and climbing. The writing was pretty much on the wall for the Black Caps. And sensing a tame ending, the near capacity crowd in the Gaddafi Stadium, which created an electrifying atmosphere throughout, started filing out.
Despite the task being rather daunting, the Black Caps may have made a fist of it had Craig McMillan and skipper Stephen Fleming stuck around in the middle for long. They didn't, and from then on the slide down the slope was pretty swift.
Malik also piled more misery on the Kiwis with his second career-best in the match - this time with the ball, with a return of 3-37, and more crucially clean bowling Fleming behind his legs. With this all-round display, he removed any contention for the Man of the Match award!
With Shoaib Akhtar spearheading the attack along with skipper Waqar Younis, the crowd was treated to some great pace bowling. Shoaib's raw pace was a spectacle in itself, and Waqar's virtuoso display of swing bowling added spice to the difficult chase. It was Shoaib who continuously put the 100-mile barrier under a threat, one of his thunderbolts to McMillan clocking 99.3 mph (159 kmph). An unreliable, hence not deemed official (assuming the tv broadcaster's gun is official), speed gun also clocked him at 99.9 mph. The PCB issued a press release as follows:
'According to the speed gun operated in the ground by a sponsor, Shoaib Akhtar bowled a delivery at a speed off 161 kph during the third odi between Pakistan and New Zealand at Gaddafi Staium, Lahore.'
Well this is an issue that will fire up lots of media speculation as the TV broadcaster's speed gun was not working, so one can only rest this case as there is really no 'official' system in place for measuring speeds.
The Black Caps were treated to some scary stuff by Akhtar from the word go, but it was Waqar Younis who disturbed Chris Nevin's off-stump with a gem of a delivery, which pitched on the leg and swung out late. This early scalp brought McMillan in, and he along with Matt Horne did a measure of repair job with controlled aggression. Horne displayed lots of guts, flicking Akhtar for two consecutive fours over mid-wicket and square leg in the eighth over.
Shoaib was replaced by Mohammad Sami after a rather expensive spell of bowling where he went for 23 runs in four overs. Horne rode his luck when he was caught behind off a no-ball in the very first Sami over. As the Kiwis went past 50 in the 11th over, Horne and McMillan continued to play their shots and also tried to maintain a healthy run rate. Horne (28, 44 balls, 3 fours) was bowled by Abdul Razzaq in the 15th over. McMillan (38, 48 balls, 3 fours) went soon after, his miscued pull off Sami, who also worked up considerable pace, regularly in the mid 140s, giving a simple chance to Inzamam at mid-wicket.
Lou Vincent, who had quite efficiently kept wickets earlier in the day, along with Fleming (15, 26 balls) tried to steady the innings but their hopes more or less evaporated when Fleming was bowled by Malik round his legs.
At the end of 30th over, the Black Caps were 137 for four and the required run rate was already creeping up to 7 an over. Vincent and Styris tried to make a fist of it, but the former was bowled by Afridi and Styris was comprehensively stumped by Latif off Malik, who also bowled Adams neck and crop.
It was all over, and the remaining three wickets fell in no time, two of them, Brooke Walker and Daryl Tuffey being run out. Chris Harris, the last man out, tried to reduce the margin of defeat but it was Sami who snared him leg before for 37 to bring down the curtains on the Kiwi innings.
Shoaib scores ton as Pakistan batting gives another organised display:
Malik (115, 142 balls, 12 fours) scored his second century in three games, as Pakistan posted a very competitive score of 278 for five wickets in their regulation 50 overs. Par for the course in this series as far as first innings scores go, as Pakistan had 275 at Karachi and New Zealand 277 at Rawalpindi.
Though the finish was not as powerful as it could have been, with the last 10 overs going for just 71 runs, it still was a very organised batting display by Pakistan, fifth on the trot if one includes the last two games of Sharjah Cup 2002. And though the Kiwis bowled with a lot of discipline, conceding only three extras in the whole innings, and barring one dropped chance, they fielded with their usual athleticism, they still had no answer to Pakistan's clinical efficiency in gathering runs.
That too, without much help today from Younis Khan or Abdul Razzaq, great strikers of the ball that they are, getting in a proper innings. As Razzaq walked in at the fag end, only 17 deliveries remained. He got to face 11 of them, he slammed 22, with two fours and a six, all in the mid-wicket region, to provide some impetus to the innings which was tapering off at the close. Ostensibly because of Malik getting bogged down while looking for his hundred and debutant Misbah-ul-Haq trying to make a success of his first outing.
Though the cornerstone of the innings was young Malik's knock, his highest in One-day Internationals, the four good partnerships ensured Pakistan putting up a big total without any real difficulty.
Afridi started the way he usually does, in an exuberant manner, flicking Andre Adams first delivery to deep square leg for a boundary. He had two more hits to the fence, and in trying to repeat one of them over mid-wicket, skying a simple catch to Matt Horne at mid-on off Andre Adams.
Yousuf Youhana, who is in high season form these days, chipped in with a brisk 53 (of 51 balls, 5 fours, 2 towering sixes). He seemed to be in the kind of groove that had the promise of a third century in four innings, and was playing his strokes with great freedom once Scott Styris dropped him in the covers of Chris Harris. He really rubbed it in, by clouting Harris for a six and four in the same over and then spanking Ian Butler for two fours next over. But having made his 50 in style, Youhana gave it all away when he offered a simple caught and bowled chance to leggie Brooke Walker in his first over, and he didn't fumble it. But by then the second wicket stand had posted 93, off mere 103 balls.
Inzamam, out of sorts in recent times, seemed to be in his element, as he whacked Walker for a huge six over long-on. Malik reached his 50 in the next over, from 76 deliveries, and laced with six fours, some of them really glorious strokes.
Inzamam played well for his 35 (40 balls, 1 four, 1 six) when trying to clear the field played one right down the throat of Daryl Tuffey at deep mid-wicket off Walker. Pakistan were 191 at this point and the third wicket partnership between Inzamam and Malik had yielded 72 runs. Inzamam was replaced by debutant Misbah who mostly concentrated on rotating the strike, but with Malik eyeing his century things slowed down a bit, and though Pakistan had posted 207 by the end of the 40th over, the next four overs only yielded 19. Malik reached his 100, off 130 balls with 11 fours, but the scoring rate was still a trifle slow. Malik and Misbah, after contributing 59 in 65 balls, departed in quick succession with Razzaq hitting out to help bring the innings to a brighter close, striking Styris for a six in the last over to make it count for a dozen.
A highly defendable total; given Pakistan's potent attack. And the Pakistan attack, despite being without Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq, didn't allow them to reach anywhere near the target.