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November 26, 2009
Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam has predicted a "great future" in international cricket for debutant Umar Akmal, who rescued his team with a brazen century after the top order had collapsed on the third day in Dunedin. Umar began his innings after Shane Bond and Chris Martin had reduced Pakistan to 85 for 5, trailing by 344 runs in the first innings. He dominated a 176-run partnership with his older brother Kamran and helped Pakistan avoid the follow-on.
Umar has acquired a reputation of being a dasher with a cool head in the limited-overs formats and he began his Test career by cutting Bond for four off his first ball. He raced to his century with three consecutive boundaries off Iain O'Brien, eroding New Zealand's advantage with aggression: Umar hit 21 fours and two sixes in his innings of 129.
"He is something very special and a very exciting player," Intikhab said after Pakistan's recovery. "He is a very hard working, dedicated young person [and] a very exciting cricketer. We are lucky to have him in the side and I think he's got a great future for Pakistan.
"The good thing is that he never gets under pressure. He played his own natural game [today]. His mother said she would be praying for him and she hoped he would score some runs. She told him to just relax and take it easy but he didn't listen to her."
While 19-year-old Umar was making his first splash in Test cricket, 34-year old Shane Bond was making his comeback after two years of ICL exile and just how much his team missed him was immediately evident. Bowling with the wind, Bond gradually cranked up his pace from 140 kmh to close to 150 and accounted for three top-order batsmen. He ended the day with figures of 4 for 93 and was "pretty happy to come through" after bowling 24 overs in a day.
"My body felt pretty good the whole day and it's always nice to get wickets. I really enjoyed it," Bond said after his performance. "I was pretty keen to try and get that tonight. I'll want the ball first up tomorrow morning to try and finish that off."
Despite his success, Bond was surprised at how flat the University Oval wicket was. "We just had to make a conscious effort to run in hard and bowl aggressively on that wicket. Sometimes you leak a few runs doing that but I think you give yourself the best chance of taking wickets."
New Zealand are ahead by 122 runs with two days to go and Pakistan have only a couple of wickets in hand, a position Bond was happy with. "I think it's important we clean up those wickets tomorrow morning then we've got a good lead hopefully. Then the game is ours to set up. We could still lose the game if we bat poorly but if we play well then we can set the game up and hopefully be the only team that can win it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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