New Zealand v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Napier, 5th day December 15, 2009

Rain douses a potential cracker

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Pakistan 223( Farhat 117*, O'Brien 4-35, Tuffey 4-52) and 455 (Yousuf 89, Umar 77) drew with New Zealand 471 (Vettori 134, McCullum 89, Kaneria 7-168) and 90 for 0 (Watling 60*, McIntosh 23*)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out

Close but no cigar for New Zealand. They needed 118 from a minimum of 23 overs to win the series, BJ Watling was leading the chase with a spirited half-century and no Pakistan bowler looked threatening when the rain came down in Napier to kill the contest. The target looked within reach but the steady shower ensured that an absorbing series ended 1-1.

New Zealand were set a target of 208 in a minimum of 43 overs and, when Watling opened with Tim McIntosh, the most likely result appeared to be a draw, given how slowly these openers batted in the first innings. Watling, however, played an innings of character to send a shiver down Pakistan's spine. It was high-drama in overcast Napier: The fielders continually looked at the clouds, Mohammad Yousuf kept nudging the umpires to stop play, the batsmen were trying not to look concerned and moods in the dressing rooms were of stark contrast.

Watling, after a sedate first innings on debut, was serenely destructive in the second. There wasn't a single shot that was out of the book and he took few risks, yet runs came at a brisk pace. He played a pull and a cover drive but it was the cut that really caught the eye. The shot that really got him going came when he was on 11: The ball from Gul was short of a length and there wasn't much width on offer but Watling played a delicate late cut to the third-man boundary.

Gul tried to intimidate with two bouncers but Watling delicately side-stepped to unfurl upper cuts and collect fours. Pakistan attacked with spin from Danish Kaneria but Watling refused to be contained. He counterattacked with a stunning slog-swept flat six and a delicate paddle-swept four. With McIntosh rotating the strike adeptly, Pakistan were beginning to run out of ideas when rain came to their rescue.

New Zealand's brisk batting was in contrast to Pakistan's slow approach in the morning. Their batsmen were playing a game that doesn't come naturally to them and it made for absorbing viewing.

The moment that captured their dilemma came when Kamran Akmal hit a four and shook his head, seemingly unhappy with his shot selection. It was a stunning hit over extra cover; he had knifed through the line of a length delivery from Chris Martin but when the camera panned on him, he was shaking his head and admonishing himself. It was a risky shot in the context of the game, with the team trying to secure a safe lead before thinking of anything beyond, and he knew it. However, the shot was a natural, almost reflexive, reaction from an attacking batsman and it was that kind of a battle that Umar and Misbah too fought without success.

Misbah's failing was greater than that of Umar for he was not only more experienced but also someone who can, in theory, play the patient game. And he had started well, nudging, pushing and leaving anything that he didn't have to play. However New Zealand suffocated him with their relentless discipline and a feeling of claustrophobia set in. And the brain freeze eventually came when Misbah faced up to Daniel Vettori for the first time in the day. He went for an almighty heave - his critics would call it a dirty slog - missed it completely, and was quickly stumped by Brendon McCullum with his back foot still on the line.

Umar, unlike on the fourth day, was more sedate this morning. Iain O'Brien and the close-in fielders teased him to have a go but he continued batting defensively. Occasionally, though, the impishness in him threatened to crack open the lid of self-control. There was a hoick against O'Brien and a couple of plays and misses but no damage was done till he came up against the new ball, when he feathered an edge off an attempted cut shot to McCullum. A brain freeze by Mohammad Aamer, who had played out 52 balls with caution, threw open all possibilities yet again as Pakistan were bundled out soon after the break. The rains, however, came down to douse a cracker of a contest.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo