New Zealand v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Wellington, 4th day

Asif and Kaneria help level series

The Report by Osman Samiuddin

December 6, 2009

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Pakistan 264 (Kamran Akmal 70, Vettori 4-53, Tuffey 4-64) and 239 (Yousuf 83, Umar Akmal 52, Martin 4-52, O'Brien 4-66) beat New Zealand 99 (Asif 4-40, Kaneria 3-6) and 263 (Taylor 97, Asif 5-67, Kaneria 3-74) by 141 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out


Mohammad Asif rocked New Zealand, New Zealand v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Wellington, 4th day, December 6, 2009
Mohammad Asif's nine wickets took his series tally to 17 © Getty Images
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If Pakistan are not to go another three years and 12 Tests without a win, much will rest, as it has always, on their bowling. The very shape and variety of this attack, the threat of wickets alive in each of them, did for New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, taking Pakistan to an ultimately comfortable 141-run win to level the series, going into Napier. Mohammad Asif and Danish Kaneria were the heavies this innings, but at all times Mohammad Aamer and a luckless Umar Gul were chomping at the bit behind them.

Typically, the route to victory was a convoluted one, for dismissing 16 batsmen - they dropped six catches blind penguins wouldn't have let go in the second innings - is clearly more fun than just ten. Little, however, could be done about a breathtaking counter from Ross Taylor, who left Pakistan dazed and confused and briefly raised hopes of an audacious steal; only after he fell half an hour before lunch, in the nineties for the second Test running, could Pakistan afford to hang a little looser.

A dull morning had promised much for them, as Aamer and Kaneria struck early, reward for the batsmen's own sins more than anything. If only New Zealand had a few more Taylors they would have walked this one. He was the only man standing, cigar in mouth, chest and guns out and willing to chest-bump Pakistan around, as he has through the series. The gulf between him and some of New Zealand's batsmen is as wide as that of Mexico.

He had started a dull morning like a man on speed. Quick hands and feet helped him drive easily through covers but an ugly slog across the line for six off Asif unleashed something even more in him. Adrenaline and heart, rather than just head, carried him through an exhilarating high-risk, high-octane bouncer battle with Gul where words were exchanged as freely as were blows and boundaries.

The hooks weren't always textbooks though when were textbooks last any good? Eyes came off the ball regularly, but intent takes a batsman a long way these days. He took care to mix in some more dapper strokeplay as well, a whippy cut through point and a couple of fine sweeps off Kaneria that easily carried for six. Before you knew it, he had put on fifty with Brendon McCullum, though it was more monopoly than collusion really.

Some control came back Pakistan's way with the return of Aamer and the nearing of Taylor's hundred, a spell before lunch where run-scoring calmed down a little. Pakistan lost what little they had gained as Gul dropped a sitter at point from McCullum: what he was doing at a position made famous by men such as Jonty Rhodes will take some answering. Yesterday's drops, dollies each one of them, were suddenly looking a little less funny. And when McCullum was rightly reprieved two overs later by the review system - hitting the ball rarely makes a good case for leg-before - things seemed to be not going as much Pakistan's way as they would have liked.

But the impressive Aamer persisted from round the stumps, no doubt furthering comparisons with you-know-who. Taylor's nerves - hidden so well for so long - reappeared as he chased one and finally, as hell froze over, a Pakistani slip catch was held onto. Straight after lunch, Kaneria shut the door temporarily on the spin debate in Pakistan, reminding all of the innate beauty of his art. McCullum was done in by a delicious legbreak, and the googly that got Daryl Tuffey would have - and has - gotten rid of better men.

Iain O'Brien, in his last home Test, smiled and slogged his way to a highest Test score but that was pretty much that, time left only for a couple of confirmations. One, that Daniel Vettori is not only the most dependable batsmen in his side, he is among the most irritating to bowl to the world over. And two, that even if this bowling attack remains intact for Pakistan, they might need to shoot a few of their fielders if they are to continue winning.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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