New Zealand v Pakistan, 4th ODI, Napier February 1, 2011

Vettori laments top-order slump

Daniel Vettori lamented an unsatisfactory batting effort as New Zealand lost the fourth ODI by two wickets in Napier. The hosts slumped to 79 for 5 on a McLean Park pitch favourable for batting, as they completed yet another top-order capitulation on a tour that has been fraught with dreadful performances from New Zealand's top five batsmen. A familiar lower middle-order recovery was then launched through half-centuries to James Franklin and Nathan McCullum, and New Zealand posted 262 for 7. The total was not enough to keep Pakistan from going 2-1 up in the series, however, and the visitors chased down the target with an over to spare.

"I think we walked off the park thinking 300 was a par score, so we were short," Vettori said. "We knew we had to scrap pretty hard to give ourselves a chance, which I think we did."

James Franklin made 62 to provide the foundation for New Zealand's innings. Franklin took New Zealand out of immediate danger alongside Brendon McCullum, as the pair put on a valuable 61-run stand, before he raised another 64 runs with Nathan McCullum, who made an unbeaten 53 from 58 balls to provide impetus to the New Zealand innings towards the end. Their efforts were not enough to compensate for a string of soft dismissals at the top of the order, however, as Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson all got themselves out playing ill-advised strokes.

"Five for 80 at McLean Park is unacceptable because it's a great batting deck. I'm pleased with the way that the two McCullums and James Franklin scrapped to give us a score and give us a little bit of credibility, but 5 for 80 was just not good enough. Some guys got out to balls that you shouldn't really get out to. I know they'll be disappointed with themselves and they'll be looking to rectify it in the next game. "

The New Zealand bowlers performed creditably on the flat surface, giving their side a hope of a win with breakthroughs right through to the penultimate over of the match. But Vettori's gamble of bowling out his strike bowlers in search of wickets backfired when the first three balls 48th over, bowled by Scott Styris, were dispatched for eleven runs, effectively swinging the game in Pakistan's favour. "The bowlers, particularly Hamish Bennett and Scott Styris, stepped up and gave us a chance of winning and in the end we just ran out of resources really. I hoped to win in the 45th or 46th but it wasn't to be. Asking the likes of Scotty to bowl in the death, which is not his normal role, is tough. We were looking good up until that over."

Vettori also praised Misbah-ul-Haq, whose 93 not out provided the backbone for Pakistan's innings for the umpteenth time on the tour. Misbah built steadily alongside Younis Khan during the middle overs, before accelerating towards the end as the asking rate began to climb. His innings in Napier was his highest one-day score. "I don't think [Misbah] has missed out, he's got almost over 50 in every match. He's played well and he's been their rock really, and that's what we require - a guy who can bat through the innings and set it up for the big hitters. He's managed to do that almost every game."

The New Zealand captain was confident his team could bounce back to win the last two games to take the series, but claimed it would take special individual performances to get his side over the line. "There's still an opportunity to win the series with two games coming up. I think the teams are relatively level. It's just that one individual performance wins the game and I think Misbah tonight, the way he battled through early on and then finished it off for them - it was a great innings. We need two of those really to give ourselves a chance in Hamilton and Auckland."

He also hoped to play in the fifth one dayer in Hamilton on Thursday despite picking up a hamstring niggle while bowling. "About my third over I twinged my hamstring so I'll see how I go over the next couple of days. It's important for me to play [the next game] if I can, but the unfortunate thing about three games in five days is that it makes it difficult to recover."

Andrew Fernando writes for The Pigeon and blogs here

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