Styris leads New Zealand to thrilling win
Scott Styris: blazed a thrilling hundred as New Zealand sneaked home by four wickets at Auckland
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New Zealand 230 for 6 (Styris 101*) beat Pakistan 229 for 7 (Moin 72*) by 4 wickets with 5 balls to spare
Scott Styris blazed a thrilling hundred as New Zealand clinched a humdinger of a contest by four wickets in the first one-day international at Auckland. Moin Khan's plucky half-century earlier in the day had set the tone, as Pakistan rode on some late-innings gallop, but Styris eclipsed Moin's blitz with an unbeaten 101 and gave New Zealand a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
New Zealand had stuttered and crawled in the face of some disciplined seam bowling from Mohammad Sami and Shabbir Ahmed. With the pitch taking the bowlers' side in the first 30 overs of each innings, New Zealand landed themselves in early trouble. Craig Cumming failed to regain the crease before Shoaib Malik ripped a direct hit (8 for 1), while Hamish Marshall prodded and dabbed for 35 balls before slicing Azhar Mahmood to gully (35 for 2). Stephen Fleming was the steadying influence on his wobbling ship and picked the gaps with relative ease. Occasionally he pulled out a few favourites - a crunching cut here and a flowing drive there.
Styris added 67 with his captain and they eschewed the risks and found the gaps. Just when he looked in complete control, Fleming tried one shot too many and skied a pull off Mahmood (102 for 3). Styris opened his own textbook once Fleming fell, and displayed his intentions, as well as his repertoire, with a scorching straight-drive of Abdul Razzaq in the 31st over. But it took just five overs for the pendulum to swing right back.
Malik (2 for 28), bowling a nagging line that strangled the batsmen, was the chief architect of this fightback. He accounted for Craig McMillan and Chris Cairns, one frustrated by the lack of runs and the other deceived by turn, before Razzaq found the edge of Jacob Oram's flashing blade. But Styris kept his cool, and bided his time before launching into the assault. He timed it to perfection and forced the bowlers into an errant length, shuffling across his crease and crisply lofting anything that was pitched up. Brendon McCullum, with whippet-like urgency, maintained his composure at the crucial juncture. Then came the edges and the misfields and New Zealand scraped home.
Not too many would have envisaged such a close game when Pakistan lost their way when they batted. Fleming opted to field, and his opening bowlers, Oram and Daryl Tuffey, asked some searching questions. Yasir Hameed and Imran Farhat, with some good fortune, added 47 for the first wicket before both fell to indiscretion - Oram got one to sneak through Hameed's gate while Farhat was bowled trying to hit Cairns out of Eden Park (55 for 2).
The bowlers then took complete control. Malik spent 34 minutes and poked at almost everything. Saleem Elahi's predicament was similar and their partnership encapsulated the middle-overs struggle. Inzamam-ul-Haq delighted with his four fours but when he fell victim to his over-ambition, bowled off Styris, Pakistan were tottering (120 for 6).
Enter Moin. He scratched around initially and played his cheeky nudges. Razzaq proved an able ally and they hustled a few quick singles amid smearing some brutal fours. A misunderstanding caused Razzaq to be run-out (183 for 7) but Moin wasn't going to let up. He unveiled his effective unorthodoxy and the scooped six whistled over the midwicket fence and signaled his 50. Mahmood began as if on 150. His crisp straight-drives turned on the heat as he found the gaps in immaculate fashion. Andre Adams served up full tosses that were carted to the top tiers, the rest of the bowlers also faltered in line as 46 runs were blasted in 17 balls.
That late-order carnage could have proved costly for New Zealand. In the end Styris made sure that it didn't. But only just.