On a beauty of a batting wicket, with a quick, indeed a lightning fast outfield to boot, at Karachi's National Stadium, Shoaib Akhtar gave a fearsome display of pace bowling to demolish the Black Caps middle and late order to fashion Pakistan a big win, by a whopping 153 runs, with 20 overs to spare.
Akhtar's scorching pace was the main difference. And once Younis and Akram got the initial breakthroughs, he cut through the Black Caps line-up much like a red hot knife through butter, in the process getting six wickets for a mere 16 runs - the best figures against the Kiwis, as well as at the National Stadium. He was quite justifiably named the Man of the Match.
It was relentless aggression, and the spanking must have not just bruised the Black Caps in body and ego, but cut deep into the psyche as well. It was the kind of awe-inspiring defeat that sets the tone and tenor of a whole series.
Pakistan itself was in a spot of some serious bother at 49 for three, but Yousuf Youhana scored a magnificent hundred and Younis Khan partnered him for a second successive stand of 150-plus to revive their fortunes. And they never looked back from there.
Nathan Astle (25, off 27 deliveries, 2 fours, 2 sixes), inarguably the most accomplished of the Black Caps batsmen, tried to take the attack to Pakistan, though mostly through premeditated shots. He clouted Wasim Akram for a six over long-on and a couple of overs later gave the same treatment to Waqar Younis, sending him over the deep long-off fence. Pakistan was on the receiving end. But Younis winkled him out, his deviously slow off-cutter bowling him neck and crop, with middle and off-stump disturbed. From then on, it was like an avalanche, as wickets kept falling like ninepins after a rather bright and solid start of 53 runs in 9.5 overs.
Akram got Lou Vincent plumb in front the next over, with a quick toe-crusher homing in on the middle stump. Stand-in skipper Craig McMillan in a terrible mix-up ran Mathew Horne out. In his first over, Shaoib Akhtar accounted for McMillan, trying to pull him over the midfield only succeeding in hitting a skier to Saqlain Mushtaq.
From here on it was Akhtar all the way, well almost. Generating blistering pace, in the region of 155 kph, one of his deliveries only 0.6 mph short of his much cherished 100 mark, Shoaib took four more wickets, five in his first seven for just 10 runs. With Saqlain Mushtaq getting Chris Harris, who had hit Razzaq for a six and a four the previous over, caught at first slip, the Kiwis were in mire.
At 105 for 9, it was all over bar the shouting although Daryl Tuffey and Ian Butler flailed around for a while. Akhtar, bowled Butler with a peach of a late outswinger ramming into his off-stump, to bring down the curtains on New Zealand.
Youhana, Younis encore:
All poise, elegance and wristy strokeplay, Youhana (126, off 155 deliveries, 14 fours, 1 six) made his second successive century, one that again saved the day for Pakistan. And more importantly, he again had Younis (69, 81 balls, 2 fours, 1 six) playing the perfect foil at the other end. In an encore of the Sharjah Cup 2002 final, the two between them again made 150-plus, 161 to be exact. And that partnership led Pakistan, which at one point were in a hole at 49 for three, to a highly competitive total, especially with Razzaq (30, off 18 deliveries, 1 four, 2 sixes) getting into the act at the fag end to ensure a strong finish.
Youhana walked in at 15 for one, in the third over, with Shahid Afridi holing out to McMillan at shortish long-off in an attempt to hit Tuffey straight out of the ground. He watched helplessly at the other end as Imran Nazir pulled one down the throat of deep backward square-leg to make it 15 for 2.
The task of rebuilding was going to be tough even with Inzamam-ul-Haq around, but he too, after appearing to be in fine fettle, went 34 runs later, his pull ending straight into Butler at square leg.
But Youhana and Younis, perhaps too familiar to be overawed by the task at hand, turned the tables on a mostly uni-dimensional Kiwi attack to resurrect Pakistan.
The innings was disrupted for as long as 24 minutes owing to disturbance in a section of the crowd, at a critical point with both Youhana and Younis close to their individual hundred and fifty, at 91 and 47 respectively. But the two didn't lose any of the concentration, and got past the milestones, this being Youhana's sixth hundred and Younis' seventh fifty, without much of a hassle, and kept on batting soundly after that as well.
And by the time the two were gone, the Kiwis were already staring at a huge total. Razzaq's late flurry only made it that wee bit tougher. Eventually, the Kiwis never even came near the target.
The Black Caps were struggling with an outbreak of stomach problems to add to their injuries list after a visit to a Japanese eatery in Karachi, something they may not forget for a while. This, coupled with some missing senior players was also one of the reasons for this performance as even Tuffey was in discomfort all through the match but bravely carried on.
The next game is in Rawalpindi and one can expect a far more resolute performance there in somewhat better weather too.