New Zealand v Pakistan, 3rd ODI, Christchurch January 29, 2011

Hafeez, Afridi star in series-levelling win

Pakistan 293 for 7 (Hafeez 115, Afridi 65) beat New Zealand 250 for 9 (Styris 46, Williamson 42, Gul 2-33) by 43 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A solid maiden ODI century from Mohammad Hafeez, a monstrous assault in the death overs led by Shahid Afridi and a spirited performance in the field were features of a roaring comeback by Pakistan in the ODI series, which they leveled 1-1 with a 43-run win at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch. Hafeez counter-attacked after Pakistan had been dented in their start and dropped anchor in the middle overs to set up a launching pad for Afridi and Umar Akmal to smash 126 runs in the last ten overs. Faced with a stiff chase, New Zealand fought hard but timely breakthroughs meant they were always struggling to measure up to the asking rate, eventually leading to their downfall.

The greenish appearance of the track proved deceptive as the movement off the seam that Ross Taylor had banked on when opting to field proved negligible. At the same time, conditions weren't too easy for the batsmen early on either as the pitch played slow and low and the ball didn't come on. Hafeez, who has often squandered starts since his promotion to the top of the order, lost two partners, Ahmed Shehzad and Kamran Akmal, to deliveries that appeared to stop on the batsmen. But New Zealand's seamers lacked discipline and failed to apply pressure consistently, which allowed Hafeez to wrest the initiative.

The short square boundaries at the AMI Stadium were inevitably favoured as the bowlers didn't help their cause by consistently pitching short. Not long after he had nipped out two wickets, Tim Southee was pulled for consecutive boundaries by Hafeez; Hamish Bennett, struggling to bowl into the wind and dropping significantly in pace, was welcomed with a swipe to fine leg and six over long-on while Jacob Oram, in the very over he dismissed Younis Khan, was dispatched over midwicket.

New Zealand had a few chances to limit the damage. Hafeez was dropped on 49 by Brendon McCullum, diving full length to his right and failing to hold on to a difficult catch; Misbah-ul-Haq, who added 94 with Hafeez, was given a reprieve through a missed stumping by McCullum, and Bennett dropped a relatively simple catch off Afridi that, otherwise, could have checked the one-way traffic towards the end of the innings.

Even as Pakistan tried to rebuild their innings, Hafeez was at ease, displaying an excellent ability to adapt, rotating the strike with Misbah and threading the gaps with adept footwork and timing. He stepped out to smash debutant Luke Woodcock for a straight boundary, lofted Oram over the in-field and, after securing his century and taking the batting Powerplay, scooped and slogged Southee for successive fours before signing off by heaving Kyle Mills for a six.

By the time he fell, Umar had warmed up with a couple of meaty hits and Afridi only had to join in. He targeted Oram, who was struggling with his lengths, in the 46th over, hammering him for two sixes on the leg side and a boundary through cover. The seamers either bowled too full or dragged the ball too short and Afridi, paddling, swatting and slapping, collected sixes over fine leg, cover point and long-on on his way to equalling the fastest half-century - off 19 balls - by a batsman in New Zealand, a record also held by McCullum.

New Zealand began brightly in their reply with Martin Guptill and Jamie How capitalising on the short boundaries to add 44 in quick time. But Pakistan's seamers, unlike the New Zealand bowlers, relied more on variations in pace with Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul ensuring the pressure of a big chase never diminished. How holed out to deep midwicket, failing to pick the slower ball; Ross Taylor, after a watchful start, stabbed at a good-length delivery to be caught at slip by Younis and Guptill, after four boundary-less overs in the second Powerplay, punched Riaz to point where Shehzad clung on to a low chance.

The hosts were in the hunt when Scott Styris and Kane Williamsom preserved their wickets, picked out the gaps to ensure a steady flow of ones and twos and accumulated 81 runs for the fourth wicket to stage a recovery. But while the seamers had picked up the wickets and restrained the batsmen, the slow bowlers, too, proved difficult to step up against, adding to the pressure on New Zealand. Afridi and Hafeez got through their overs quickly and gave little away. Hafeez eventually broke the stand as Styris failed to clear deep midwicket and when Williamson and McCullum departed within three runs of each other - bowled by Riaz and run out by Umar respectively - the game was all but sealed.

Pakistan's approach to their innings was reminiscent of the strategy they had adopted in the 1999 World Cup, progressing slowly with wickets in hand in the middle overs to set the stage for a violent surge in the last ten. Not a bad thing to prepare for the 2011 edition in much the same way.

Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo