New Zealand romp to series win
New Zealand 127 (Cumming 45*) beat Pakistan 126 by 8 wickets, and lead 5-match series 3-1
A nippy morning and some irresponsible shots from the Pakistan batsmen did it. A target of 127 was never a problem for New Zealand and they romped to a series win with plenty to spare in the fourth one-dayer at Napier. Craig Cumming led the response with a composed knock of 45 not out, but the real damage was done by some disciplined bowling in the morning session.
The team batting second had finished triumphant in the first three matches. And on all three occasions the captain winning the toss had opted to field. Fleming ensured that the toss trend continued, and his bowlers ensured the rest. Yasir Hameed and Imran Farhat had to confront some tough conditions - overcast skies, a seaming pitch and bowling concentrated in the corridor. They began as if at Rawalpindi, hitting through the line and racing along at six an over. But it didn't last, as Hameed's flourishing cover-drive attempt landed in the hands of Scott Styris at second slip (20 for 1).
Saleem Elahi joined Farhat and they survived a dicey period. But just as both batsmen were getting into the groove, they threw it away. This was largely due to the pressure applied by tight bowling, supported by athletic fielding. Elahi managed only one four in his 42-ball struggle and Hamish Marshall, prowling in the point region, brought off some fantastic saves. Farhat flirted with one that shaped away, while Elahi chased a wide one from Kyle Mills, and Brendon McCullum pouched both the catches (49 for 3).
Pakistan then hurtled towards disaster. Yousuf Youhana poked at a good-length ball from Jacob Oram, and an inside-edge rattled the stumps (53 for 4). Inzamam-ul-Haq's torrid time with the bat continued as he missed an inswinger from Chris Cairns and was caught right in front (53 for 5). Oram, Mills and Daryl Tuffey weren't destructive, but they landed the ball precisely and let the pitch do the rest. Cairns was the most impressive, and the shape that he managed to get on the ball had the batsmen missing more often than they connected.
Moin Khan and Abdul Razzaq showed signs of rebuilding the crumbling innings, but just like Farhat and Elahi, fell victim to irresponsibility. Both tried to pull Tuffey. Moin managed to find the long-leg fielder (75 for 7), while Razzaq top-edged to short third man (87 for 9). Sandwiched between these dismissals, Tuffey nailed Azhar Mahmood lbw with a darting in-cutter, and Pakistan were in dire straits.
Shoaib Akhtar decided to go down in a blaze of glory, and he made the 30th over his very own. He walloped four fours off Cairns, and took 23 off the over in all. However, he decided to shelve his audacious strokeplay after that and added 39 with Mohammad Sami for the last wicket, a Pakistan record against New Zealand and the highest stand of the innings.
By then the clouds had cleared and the pitch had become easy-paced. Fleming began the reply in galloping fashion. The first few overs were all about canny placements and quick running. But he shifted gears in the ninth over, bowled by Sami, and his three fours were gorgeous in their execution. The flick to fine leg was largely due to the bowler's wayward line, but the crisp cover-drive and blazing on-drive emphasised his good form. He had some luck, too: he flashed one uppishly towards gully, but Hameed couldn't quite latch on to a tough chance despite his sprightly dive.
Fleming fell to a slower ball from Mahmood, when he drove uppishly to cover (84 for 1), and Marshall was stumped, too eager for an early finish (87 for 2). But Cumming and Cairns applied the final coat of varnish, adding 40 runs in quick time. Cumming stroked some fluent drives, and finished on a confident note, while Cairns smote five fours in his 25-ball stay.
The match brought back memories of the low-scoring series that India and New Zealand contested last year. Ironically, the only time India passed 200 in that whole series was on this ground. Pakistan will be looking to salvage some pride in the dead-rubber finale at Wellington on Saturday.