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September 22, 2007
From gentle touch to brute force
It took New Zealand 17 balls to find their first boundary, but when it came, it was a delightful clip through midwicket by Brendon McCullum off Mohammad Asif. McCullum used the pace of the bowler and barely leaned on the ball sending it racing to the boundary. While McCullum showed that grace can still work in Twenty20, Lou Vincent then reverted to the more common theme - sheer power. Sohail Tanvir dropped the ball fractionally short and Vincent latched onto a pull, launching the ball in the now familiar direction of deep square-leg, over the stand and out of the ground.
Peter Fulton was brought back for this match, but it didn't appear the wisest decision as he limped to 10 off 15 balls. It hasn't been the happiest tournament for Fulton, 77 runs at a strike-rate just above a run-a-ball after he'd been touted as a part of New Zealand's top-order power. His fall summed things up: a full toss from Umar Gul was steered straight to extra cover.
The Twenty20 party is almost at an end, but it is still attracting some late guests. Fawad Alam was handed his first game of the tournament as a replacement for Salman Butt and took the chance. With his fifth ball he clung onto a sharp caught-and-bowled chance to remove Vincent, although even the bowler seemed surprised at the end result. His second scalp was the key one: Craig McMillan, who has been New Zealand's leading batsman. Two balls after he was dispatched for a six, Alam had his revenge when an attempted repeat found long-off.
Gul proved Pakistan's trump card after once again being held back for the second half of the innings. New Zealand were building a platform to allow their middle-order to make the charge, but Gul snuffed out their hopes. He removed Fulton, Scott Styris and Jacob Oram and conceded only one boundary in his four overs - an edge to third man - at a time when the ball is meant to be flying everywhere. But, as Osman Samiuddin said, it shouldn't be a surprise that Gul has impressed in Twenty20.
With early wickets the order of the day, New Zealand had their chance but let it slip. Imran Nazir flashed at Mark Gillespie's second ball only for McCullum to pull out of the catch and leave it for Scott Styris at slip. Styris barely moved a muscle and the ball raced to the boundary. By the end of the over, Nazir had added two more boundaries and the momentum was with Pakistan. Another shocker was to follow and Nazir was again the beneficiary when he lofted Jacob Oram to long-on only to for Ross Taylor to drop a dolly. That was the moment New Zealand heads also dropped.
Out, but staying in
Nazir called for a runner at the end of the first over and, because Pakistan hadn't lost a wicket, someone from the middle had to do the job and so Shoaib Malik, the captain, took it upon himself. This resulted in an usual sight when Mohammad Hafeez was dismissed by Scott Styris, as Malik made his way off while Hafeez stayed in the middle and took over the running duties.
Taking out a team-mate
Keep your eyes on the ball - it's a basic all cricketers are told from a young age, but not normally to prevent injury from a team-mate. Jeetan Patel collected the ball at long-off and hurled a powerful throw back towards the stumps, only for Vincent's head to get in the way. He went down like he'd been shot, to the immediate worry of everyone near him. Thankfully, after taking a few minutes to recover he was back on his feet, but probably wished he'd had one of the hard hats handed out to the crowd.
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