April 15, 2001

Sharjah Diary: Aggressive Pakistan conquer with ease

SHARJAH - Already assured of a spot in the final, Pakistan went about the job of demolishing New Zealand with all-out aggression, and ended up notching a rather facile win, by seven wickets, in this ARY Gold Cup league match. Fired by a seven-wicket haul shared by Saqlain Mushtaq (4 for 17) and Abdur Razzaq (3 for 22), Pakistan got the Black Caps out for the lowest total of the event, a mere 127 with nearly 18 of their regulation 50 overs left.

Batting on both sides of the dinner break, Pakistan overhauled the target with half of their overs in spare. Inzamam-ul-Haq led the way with yet another glorious innings of 85 runs (67 balls, 12 fours, 2 sixes). It was a brutal display of batting by one of the best in the business, and at his irresistible best. The Kiwi bowling neither had the wherewithal nor the will to stop the flow of runs from his blade.

Inzamam cut loose with a barrage of shots against leg-spinner Brooke Walker, clubbing him for 18 runs in his first over, with four fours and a couple, the range of strokes from cover to long leg. In his next over, poor Walker was again dished out more of the same, a six to midwicket and a four at point.

After the break, he went after Grant Bradburn, the off-spinner, swatting him out of the ground and then pulling him to square leg. The rest of the bowlers too, got similar treatment. Inzamam's batting made up for the hint of complacency shown by the Pakistan openers. But, in reality, it really was no run chase, and Inzamam only made sure that it was achieved with relative ease.

Condemned to a thrashing almost throughout, the Kiwis, winning the toss and electing to bat first, had been off to a rather bright start. They won the toss, and their opening pair got about the job of collecting runs in a most positive manner. Chris Nevin was stroking the ball well, and he got after both Waqar Younis and Mohammad Sami, scoring several boundaries in the bargain.

At 39 for nought, halfway through the sixth over, who could've said that they would be out so tamely, adding just another 88 runs? In all fairness, this is not the strongest possible New Zealand team visiting Sharjah.

An enterprising Chris Nevin, who kept finding the boundaries from the outset, forced Younis to make a change early on. Razzaq was brought in place of Sami, and the Pakistan skipper literally hit pay dirt. In his very first over, Razzaq removed the in-form Mathew Sinclair, with a hundred and a fifty behind him in this tournament, clean bowling him with a beauty of an in-cutter. In his next over, Razzaq got Matthew Bell bowled off his pads.

A bit later, Nevin having bludgeoned his way to 50 off just 40 deliveries, holed out to Sami at deep square leg, again off Razzaq and skipper Craig McMillan ran himself out. Four quick wickets, and the rot had set in. Sami made amends in his second spell, grabbing two wickets in the bargain and Saqlain never let the vice-like grip loosen.

It was aggressive bowling, which going for the kill, decimated the Kiwis. The hapless Black Caps, without a win so far in this tournament with one outing to go on Tuesday, are for all intents and purposes, out of the final. A slim, theoretical chance of qualifying on net run rate remains there if they beat Sri Lanka. But, that is really a very, very long shot. So the match on Tuesday is likely to be of academic value now, as it is very likely, barring a miracle, Sri Lanka will feature in the final against Pakistan.