February 28, 2001

Top order makes life a whole lot easier for winning Kiwis

New Zealand's top order came good at the right time to end the long haul of 27 One-Day Internationals this summer with a series win over Pakistan.

The New Zealanders have only won nine of the games, with 17 lost and one no result.

But a lot of the pain associated with the disappointments of losing two series to Zimbabwe 1-2, South Africa 0-5 and Sri Lanka 1-4 was eased with the win over Pakistan.

It is a team full of quality players who have been a constant bugbear for New Zealand in the past.

However, the win in the ICC KnockOut tournament semi-final and this series has gone a long way to lifting the Pakistan bogey from New Zealand shoulders. The real test of that will come in Pakistan when New Zealand tours later in the year.

For the moment however, there is no doubt that New Zealand, playing as a team and overcoming some disappointing form from some key players, still managed an impressive series win.

Captain Stephen Fleming said the side did not see themselves as world-beaters and while it was good to have the win under their belts going into the Test series, the Tests would be "a different kettle of fish."

Fleming, who was dropped twice on 17 and 39, said he felt his luck was changing earlier in the week when after lipping out with putts in his recreational golf he had started sinking them yesterday.

"I thought my luck might be changing," he said.

"It was nice that Nos 1, 2 and 3 have done a job. It is great when preaching to the younger players and then you do something yourself.

"It has been fantastic to have two games of 280-plus on such good pitches and it is no coincidence that we have won them both."

The side also handled fast man Shoaib Akhtar with much more ease than in the opening game of the series in Auckland where he picked up five wickets in Pakistan's easy win.

"It was different situations and different conditions. Auckland was an eye-opener, a look for the guys.

"At no stage after that did they really get exposed and that was a key thing that the top order faced the majority of his deliveries.

"I guess when you bowl that fast there are opportunities to score whether they are nicks or whether they are deflections or whether they are wide deliveries something is happening. You can lose your wicket but you can also collect the score very quickly.

"While he's been bowling fast he's also been going for a lot of runs," he said.

Akhtar bowled 9.1 overs and had two for 67.