Astle and Fleming set up fine win for New Zealand to clinch series
A record-breaking all wickets partnership of 193 runs by Nathan Astle and Stephen Fleming set New Zealand up for a thrilling National Bank series win over Pakistan in Dunedin today.
It was hard to believe that New Zealand had struggled all summer to fulfil an opening stand of any quality.
The pair, long standing batting partners from their earliest days with Canterbury, dominated a Pakistan attack, including some fiery moments when Shoaib Akhtar managed two or three of the fastest overs seen in the country for some time.
Akhtar limped out of the bowling attack after bowling only five overs, most of the last over being delivered off a short run up as he once again struggled with a thigh muscle injury. He came back for 4.1 overs and bowled off a short run.
The New Zealanders bettered the all wickets stand of 180 made by Ken Rutherford and Adam Parore set against India in Baroda in 1994/95.
Along the way they dusted off the opening record of 158 set by Martin Crowe and John Wright against Bangladesh in Sharjah in 1989/90 while they also passed the 153 achieved by Astle and Mathew Sinclair against Zimbabwe in Wellington in January.
Fleming said the side knew from the outset of the summer that Pakistan would be a tough series to win and to come through and win 3-2 had been a good test of character.
"We're delighted. It is nice to have something on the board for the work we've been doing," he said.
"It was very important to get wickets at the end and stop them short of 300. We did that in Nairobi and we did it again here.
"It was a great wicket again," he said.
New Zealand suffered a hiccup in the latter stages of its chase when losing three wickets in five balls for one run. But Chris Harris and Jacob Oram added 38 runs for the seventh wicket with Oram hitting a six of the first ball of the penultime over to wrap up the win.
Pakistan twice had the chance to put New Zealand on the rack with the bat - but they fluffed it both times.
At 90/1 off 15 overs and with Shahid Afridi threatening to launch into even more of an assault than he had already achieved while hitting 50 off 40 balls.
But the wily Chris Harris undid him at the right time from New Zealand's point of view, having him caught at the wicket by wicket-keeper Adam Parore for 65 scored from 55 balls.
It featured some thrilling hitting and the runs came quickly after he had got over a poor patch of playing and missing at the start of his innings.
Pakistan was then required to rebuild and it took its time. Just when Abdur Razzaq and Yousuf Youhana began to up the tempo, Fleming brought back Daryl Tuffey for his second spell and he had Razzaq chasing a rising ball which Parore held.
Youhana and Imran Farhat formed an unlikely combination, given Farhat's poor form earlier in the series, and they added 68 off 73 balls.
At 225/3 in the 42nd over, Pakistan, with Yousuf in full cry, looked to be set to score more than 300, but Craig McMillan's belated arrival at the bowling crease for the over concerned saw Yousuf out, leg before wicket for 68, and set in train a string of events which saw Pakistan all out three balls short of the 50 overs for 285.
Moin Khan hit out superbly for a 20-ball 36 but as McMillan found the sort of bowling form at the death New Zealand has been looking for all summer, he gained a suitable ally in Jacob Oram and four wickets fell in nine balls.
It was a fine effort in pulling back a side on the loose and made New Zealand's chase that much easier.
Pakistan captain Moin said the 285 was a good target to defend.
"They played really well, they deserved to win. We missed a few catches in the beginning and there was pathetic fielding from our side today.
"We tried our best but we didn't bowl to the targets today.
"We were 20-25 runs short in the end.
"We will have to come back hard if we want to win the Test series. We have to learn from our mistakes," he said.