New Zealand triumph despite Razzaq special

New Zealand 307 for 8 (Marshall 84, McMillan 81) beat Pakistan 303 (Razzaq 89, Inzamam 67, Moin 52) by 4 runs

Abdul Razzaq's volcanic 89 off 40 balls wasn't enough for Pakistan as New Zealand squeaked home by four runs in a cliffhanger at Wellington. Hamish Marshall and Craig McMillan, with contrasting half-centuries, were the chief architects of New Zealand's massive scoreline. Pakistan were extremely sloppy in the field and their top order fell in search of quick runs. But Razzaq got them out of jail and threatened to snatch an improbable victory.

To successfully chase 308, Pakistan needed a solid, yet speedy, start. But the New Zealand fielding was top notch and the bowlers didn't give too much away. Yasir Hameed creamed a few cover-drives amid missing a great deal, and Imran Farhat wasn't too assured either, giving the opening partnership an edgy air.

Farhat was the first to go, done by Oram's steepling bounce and the thick edge flew to Kyle Mills at third man (34 for 1). Azhar Mahmood was sent in as the pinch-hitter, but he lasted only 14 balls before he attempted a wild swish off Mills and was bowled (53 for 2). When Yousuf Youhana and Hameed fell in quick succession, Pakistan were staring down the barrel (73 for 4).

Moin Khan joined Inzamam-ul-Haq, with the innings requiring some serious rebuilding. Inzamam was rock solid at one end and most of his runs came from deft placements. He relied more on a wristy touch rather than brute strength and was assured throughout his stay. Moin survived some darting incutters from the medium-pacers and broke the shackles, slapping sizzling square-drives. Andre Adams was at the receiving end, as Moin repeatedly beat the close-in fielders with his cuts and drives.

Moin added 98 for the fifth wicket with Inzamam before being bowled in an attempt to delicately glide Scott Styris to third man (171 for 5). If this partnership was about reconstruction, the next one was about demolition, as Razzaq and Inzamam added 94 in just under 10 overs. Inzamam steered the ship and continued playing second fiddle, with his partner taking the main role. It was not an exhibition of wild swinging and neither batsman looked in a desperate hurry.

Daniel Vettori bowled a nagging spell, yet the batsmen managed to find the boundary every over. They cashed in on loose balls, and when Adams served up mouth-watering full-tosses, Razzaq carted them over long-on and long-off. There was a certain predictability in his stance, his lofting in the V between long-on and long-off, and his ability to clear the boundary with nonchalant ease.

Adams came back to bowl the 43rd over, but his attempted yorkers turned out to be full-tosses, and Razzaq bludgeoned 24 off the over. Inzamam was then run out in the 46th over after a fatal misunderstanding (265 for 6), but as long as Razzaq was in the middle, it appeared Pakistan would achieve the target with ease. But with only 14 required off 12 balls, he holed out to Marshall at long-off (294 for 9) in sight of the second-fastest ODI hundred, and that ended Pakistan's challenge. Shabbir Ahmed was run-out in the last over (303) and Pakistan fell marginally short.

Until Moin and Inzamam began the rebuilding operation, New Zealand had stamped their authority over the entire game. After opting to bat, Stephen Fleming and Craig Cumming ensured there were no initial hiccups, and capitalised on Shoaib Akhtar's wayward bowling. They added 47 runs in quick time for the first wicket, before Fleming spooned a wide ball uppishly to gully in Mohammad Sami's first over (47 for 1). Sami struck again in his next over when Cumming played onto his stumps (57 for 2), and just when caution was required, Styris threw his wicket away. He charged down the track in Mahmood's first over and skied one straight up in the air, and Moin completed an easy catch (73 for 3).

It was then that Marshall and McMillan got together for their steadying partnership, and ended up breaking a few records. They exploited some woeful Pakistan fielding and stole singles with ease. Given the opportunity, Marshall pierced the gaps with elegant cuts and McMillan used his punch-drive to good effect.

McMillan upped the ante in the 26th over as he began to destroy Razzaq singlehandedly. Marshall immediately shifted gears and handed more of the strike to McMillan. Amid rotating the strike, Marshall didn't spare the loose balls. When he reached his 50 with an audacious glide off Akhtar over the vacant slip region, New Zealand were not only back on track, but also within striking distance of a huge total.

While Marshall dealt primarily in singles, McMillan had no problem striking the ball. He carted Mahmood over extra cover in the 39th over, and then struck Shoaib Malik even further, nearly 15 rows over long-on.

But McMillan fell trying to swing Mahmood over long leg, and Marshall was run-out soon after (244 for 5). They added 157 and it was the highest fourth-wicket partnership for New Zealand against Pakistan. Chris Cairns (36 off 20) provided the late-innings impetus with some violent swinging and Sami was battered for 19 runs in the 46th over; the highlight was a waspish pull that landed on the top tier over long-leg. Oram finished with a flourish, clattering the biggest six of the whole innings by flat-batting Sami to the midwicket fence.

Akhtar's final spell was the best period of bowling in the entire innings. He followed the batsmen when they made room and touched 150 kmph. McCullum and Adams had no clue to the straight corkers that bowled them and this spell was largely responsible for New Zealand not reaching the 320 mark.

That spell from Akhtar was the only bright spot for Pakistan in the first 65 overs of the match. It took Moin, Inzamam and an explosive Razzaq to make a match of a lost cause. And they got excruciatingly close.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo.