Fleming leads New Zealand to victory in Bank Alfalah Cup

Charlie Austin

May 23, 2003

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New Zealand 200 for 6 (Fleming 65) beat Pakistan 198 (Younis 70*) by 4 wickets with 4.4 overs to spare



Happy captain: Stephen Fleming poses with the Bank Alfalah Cup
© AFP
New Zealand's long summer came to an end with a comfortable four-wicket victory against Pakistan in the final of the Bank Alfalah Cup - their first major limited-overs win since the ICC Knockout in 2000 and only their second tournament win in history.

The result may have gone relatively unnoticed back home, where tomorrow's Super Twelve clash between Auckland and Canterbury is hogging the media spotlight, but it deserved some headlines, achieved as it was against two Asian sides in difficult subcontinental conditions.

New Zealand, asked to chase 199 on a pitch that many feared might finally turn into a sandpit after its third match in a week, were waltzing home at one stage, as Stephen Fleming scored 65 from 111 balls, hitting five fours and three magnificent sixes.

However, there were some jitters late in the day, as New Zealand collapsed from 151 for 2 to 170 for 5. But Chris Cairns, who had a low-scoring series as a specialist batsman, carried New Zealand to the brink with 18, before Chris Harris and Brendon McCullum finished it off.

Pakistan, who had earlier turned down the chance to bowl first when the pitch was most fruity, sorely missed the services of Shoaib Akhtar, their main strike bowler, who spent the day ferrying mineral water and bananas to his team-mates after his ball-tampering ban.

Mohammad Sami, the spearhead in Akhtar's absence, tried hard - probably too hard as he bowled nine wides. He did claim the first wicket, of Chris Nevin, who flashed a catch to backward point, but by that stage New Zealand were coasting (54 for 1).

When the fielding restrictions were lifted, New Zealand had 70 on the board, the best start in a tortuously slow-scoring tournament. Pakistan threw their spinners into the fray, but there was no Murali-like slow bowler at Rashid Latif's disposal to create mayhem.

Fleming was New Zealand's best batsman during the Tests, but had hitherto been quiet during this series. However, he saved his best for when it mattered most, bringing up his 34th one-day fifty - the first for New Zealand in the tournament - with his third six.

Having added 59 in 101 balls with Fleming, Lou Vincent (13) was run out, but Scott Styris was in punchy form, cracking a six and four in his 23-ball 22. New Zealand were galloping home.

But Sami threatened one last twist, as he returned for his second spell. Fleming was caught at extra cover off a miscued pull and Styris chopped on to his stumps in the same over. The innings ground to a halt before Jacob Oram crashed three successive boundaries.

Oram was dismissed when he clipped a catch to midwicket but New Zealand, blessed with the advantage of experience over a youthful Pakistan outfit, held their nerve.

Earlier, New Zealand had clasped the early initiative, reducing a seriously inexperienced Pakistan top order (the first three had only 10 caps between them) to 56 for 4. It was a carbon-copy start to Tuesday's dress-rehearsal, when they had slumped to 61 for 4.

Everyone stayed on the same script as Pakistan's middle order then knocked the match back onto an even keel with some aggressive batting.

Shoaib Malik - the allrounder of the tournament - led the way, speeding to 34 from 45 balls during a 57-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Younis Khan. New Zealand briefly lost their grip on the game.

Even when Malik departed - bowled by Daniel Vettori as he tried to cut - Younis powered on with support from Abdul Razzaq (10) and then Latif (20), with whom he added 43 in just 49 balls. Younis was stylish and powerful, stroking seven boundaries in his unbeaten 70 from 85 balls, including a couple of skimming on-drives that would have delighted the game's purists.

But Pakistan lost their way at the death, after threatening the tournament's highest score when they reached 179 for 6 in the 44th over. Jacob Oram and Daryl Tuffey, both of whom took three wickets apiece, took the last four scalps for just 19 runs, as Pakistan managed only 198.

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Charlie Austin Sri Lanka editor When Charlie Austin left for Sri Lanka after graduating from Sussex University, he was a planning a winter's cricket in the tropics and a six-month stint with an environmental NGO. His mother's worst fears were soon realised when it became clear that he had fallen in love with the island. Six months have now become eight years and Colombo has become his home. He joined Cricinfo in February 2000 and now heads operations in Sri Lanka, responsible for both sales and editorial. He is also the director of a UK-based travel company called Red Dot Tours, and is currently ghosting Muttiah Muralitharan's autobiography.
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