Pakistan record fine six-wicket win
Pakistan 236 for 4 (Yousuf Youhana 88*, Imran Farhat 87) beat New Zealand 235 for 8 (Oram 54, McCullum 56*) by 6 wickets
Brendon McCullum: unorthodox, but effective
Imran Farhat and Yousuf Youhana steadied the ship and then shifted to cruise control as Pakistan cantered home in the second one-dayer at Queenstown. Their responsible 143-run stand took Pakistan to a convincing six-wicket win, and levelled the series at 1-1. The victory could have turned out even easier, but for Brendon McCullum and Jacob Oram scripting a tremendous recovery when New Zealand batted first. And when Pakistan lost two wickets in the first 15 overs, they needed some calm heads. That's when Youhana (88 not out) and Farhat (87) cashed in.
Pakistan found themselves in a precarious position after two rash slashes. In the second over of the innings, Yasir Hameed couldn't resist the temptation when Ian Butler dangled the bait, and Oram pulled off a fantastic low catch at point (14 for 1). Saleem Elahi, who had seen off a good spell from Daryl Tuffey, gave it all away, attempting a fierce cut when Oram pitched it short. The edge was safely pouched by McCullum (52 for 2) and the pressure valve was gradually tightening.
Youhana took 14 balls to get off the mark, and at that point, it was a matter of which team would yield first. The turning point came with the fourth ball of the 17th over. Chris Cairns pitched one up, and Youhana languidly strolled down the track, took the ball on the full, and lofted it over the bowler with a handsome flourish. And while the crowd was savouring that one, he unveiled a pull in Cairns's next over and made them gape all over again. From then on, everything was too easy.
Farhat and Youhana cracked a few more fours and forced Stephen Fleming to spread the field - the problems of not having a sizeable total. It was then that the batsmen hurt New Zealand with singles. Tip-and-run was the dominant mode of runscoring for a considerable period. It wasn't as much frenetic running as canny placements that did the trick. And when Farhat waltzed down the track to Daniel Vettori in the 38th over and blasted the ball over midwicket with a swirling flourish, it signalled that the end was near. Farhat finally fell when he cut Vettori uppishly to point (195 for 3), but Youhana ensured that the job was completed without too much ado.
The target would have been much smaller if Oram and McCullum hadn't engineered a tremendous recovery. Early-morning nip and indiscreet shot-selection resulted in New Zealand being floored in the first half of their innings. They lost the toss and were asked to bat, but there was nothing vicious about the pitch. Craig Cumming shuffled across his stumps without accounting for the swing, Hamish Marshall played a tad too early and spooned a catch, and Scott Styris, looking to reprise his Auckland heroics, top-edged an attempted mighty hook (53 for 3).
Fleming braved this dicey period, when there was just a bit in it for the bowlers, and got into the groove with some flourishing strokes. He preferred the square regions - largely because of the length the bowlers stuck to - and scored only two runs straight down the ground. The flowing drive was sacrificed for some wristy manipulations, with flicks and cuts coming to the fore. When Shoaib Malik came on to bowl in the 23rd over, Fleming hinted at upping the rate with some late improvisation. But he didn't account for the extra bounce that Malik extracted, and went through with his square-drive. The uppish shot flew to backward point, where Mohammad Sami juggled it before completing the catch (79 for 4).
Abdul Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood tightened the screws in the middle overs. Razzaq was particularly impressive in bottling up one end, and bowled out his 10 overs for only 24. He was rewarded when he sneaked one through the gate to crash into Cairns's stumps (104 for 5).
At 120 for 6 after 35 overs, New Zealand found themselves in a hole. But McCullum's liveliness was infectious. Looking for runs at the slightest opportunity, and improvising effectively, he brought a whiff of fresh air to the picturesque Queenstown arena. Amid much manic running he unleashed some effective blows and found the gaps with regularity. One of his best shots came in the 44th over. He walked down the pitch to Mahmood and, with a whirling bottom-hand movement, whipped the ball to the midwicket fence.
Oram took the orthodox approach. Standing 6ft 7ins tall, he gave himself some room and looked to play as straight as possible. The crunched drives sped to the boundary and Pakistan's fielding, which had been well-oiled all day, began to creak. Oram's 54 came off 61 balls, and he finally fell bottom-edging a good yorker from Sami (203 for 7). By then New Zealand were out of strife, and McCullum's cameo had cheered the holiday crowd. But not for long.