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November 28, 2009
Click here to listen to Daniel Vettori's press conference
The Akmals, Umar and Kamran, had flayed the New Zealand attack during the first innings in Dunedin and, at tea on the final day, they were all that stood between New Zealand and victory. Pakistan needed 86 more to win and the talk in the New Zealand dressing-room was focused on separating the brothers.
"There was talk the whole way through of just hanging in there, if we put the ball in the right areas the wicket will take over," Vettori said after his team secured a 1-0 lead in the series. "It was about breaking that partnership, probably in my own head about throwing the ball to Ober [Iain O'Brien] and Shane [Bond] and having a real crack at it."
New Zealand didn't break through immediately after the break, though. Instead it was Pakistan that surged ahead with a flurry of boundaries from Kamran, while Umar sensibly rotated strike. They confidently whittled the runs required down to 56 when Shane Bond, in the fifth of an eight-over spell, held a sharp return catch to dismiss Umar. It was the finishing touch on a splendid comeback for the 34-year-old fast bowler, who was Man of the Match for his eight wickets.
"It was perfect really," Bond said when asked if his comeback could have been better. "I am pleased to come through. It was different playing with four bowlers, the first time I've done that. You bowled a spell, someone else was on, and then it was 'Christ, they are going to give me the ball again,' which is pretty tough.
"I firmly believed that we were good enough to win the Test. Whether that was going to materialise or not was another matter. I suppose that's why you want to play Test cricket, because it is a true test, it's the mental highs and lows."
Another component of New Zealand's four-man attack, Iain O'Brien, had suffered an injury as the situation was growing increasingly tense. Umar, before his dismissal, had hammered the ball back at O'Brien, dislocating the bowler's finger as he attempted a tough return catch. He needed treatment and the physio spent a few minutes trying to straighten his digit.
"I saw the pain he [O'Brien] was in, his eyes welled up, so he must have been in agony, and also it [the finger] was out of place," Vettori said. "He had a tough time in the first innings, [so] for him to bounce back and bowl as well as that showed a lot of heart.
"I've always backed Ober [O'Brien], I've always liked the way he bowls, liked the effort he brings to a game. He always wants the ball, you saw the turnaround from the first innings. I probably bowled him a little bit too much, kept him a bit fresher in this one and he responded. That spell with him and Shane after tea was the real difference."
It was Kamran's wicket, lbw O'Brien, to a delivery which cut back sharply that Vettori singled out as "the one where everyone started to believe" New Zealand could win. From thereon, though Pakistan's tail resisted, it was only a matter of time and it was Vettori who mopped up the last two wickets to secure a 32-run win.
Vettori also emphasised the effect a small, but vocal, crowd at the University Oval had on his team. "Special mention to the atmosphere that was there, the crowd - however small - was amazing. It lifted everyone and it was almost the first thing we spoke about once we came off the field. I felt there were 80,000 people out there rather than how many ever there were." Bond also said that the crowd's involvement whenever the game was "drifting away" gave everyone a lift.
Vettori, however, was not entirely pleased with New Zealand's performance over all five days, saying there was "some frustration" that they had managed to set a target of only 251 even after securing a 97-run lead in the first innings. "We want to control the game better than we did. We put ourselves in a difficult and precarious situation, but it's always a fourth-innings wicket, and if you look at the history of the game, there's not many teams that get 250 on the last day of a Test match."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.