Razzaq blasts Pakistan to victory

Pakistan 292 for 7 (Hameed 52, Razzaq 47*) beat New Zealand 291 for 5 (Cairns 84*, Sinclair 55, Marshall 55) by three wickets

A collective effort from Pakistan's batsmen lifted them to an exciting win over New Zealand at Lahore. An inspired spell of batting, in which Abdul Razzaq clouted 47 from just 22 balls, helped Pakistan chase down a mammoth 292 with two overs to spare. This gave Pakistan the surge of confidence they have lacked in recent times. The three-wicket win gave Pakistan a 1-0 lead in the five-match one-day series.

When New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat, they needed to put a big total on the board. Having done that, they could hardly believe their eyes as Pakistan ran away with the game. New Zealand handed debuts to six players: Craig Cumming, Richard Jones, Hamish Marshall, Michael Mason, Matthew Walker and Kerry Walmsley. With massive inexperience in the ranks, New Zealand needed one of the seniors to step up and take charge. Cairns, leading the side in the absence of Stephen Fleming, played the role to perfection.

After a shaky start, Mathew Sinclair and Marshall batted with caution, and strung together a 99-run stand that kept the Pakistan bowlers at bay. They kept the scoring rate ticking over, making their 99 runs from 21.2 overs.

Against the run of play, Sinclair and Marshall were both dismissed. Each had made 55, and their dismissals, with more than ten overs to go, brought Cairns and Jacob Oram together. Curiously enough, the fall of these two wickets close to the 40th over proved to be a blessing in disguise for New Zealand. Cairns and Oram boosted the scoring rate with lusty blows and as many as 112 runs were scored in the final ten overs, taking New Zealand to a massive 291.

Cairns's intent was obvious, even as he walked out to the middle with the score on 178 and with more than 10 overs to go. He could make the difference between a merely healthy total and an imposing one - and he did so in emphatic fashion. Cairns cut and drove the medium-pacers with power, but reserved his most brutal effort for the hapless Danish Kaneria.

Kaneria's last over, the 48th of the innings, went for 22 runs. The second, third and fourth balls of the over were all despatched into the stands in style. After pulling the ball over midwicket, Cairns showed he was no one-trick pony. He came down the track and dumped one ball into the stands over long off, and finished with a big heave over midwicket.

Jacob Oram (35) provided Cairns with good support, and was only dismissed off the first ball of the final over. By then, though, it hardly made a difference. Cairns's 51-ball 84, inlcuding five fours and six sixes took New Zealand to a strong position.

Pakistan have chased down big totals in the past, and still remain a dangerous, if incosistent, force in international cricket. They got off to the worst possible start, when they lost Imran Farhat off only the third ball of the innings. Then, Yousuf Youhana (42) and Yasir Hameed (52) laid the foundation blocks to a famous win, adding 90 runs for the second wicket in 17 overs.

The fact that Pakistan scored 292 in 40 overs with no-one making more than 52 is testimony to the manner in which they built partnerships and always remained within striking distance of the asking rate. Inzamam-ul-Haq (49) played with characteristic fluency, mixing big hitting with careful defence. When he was trapped lbw by Cairns in the 37th over (194 for 4), Pakistan were in deep trouble.

Moin Khan (43), promoted to No. 5, used his experience to good effect, stealing runs from under the noses of the New Zealanders. He set himself up for a final charge, but could not resist cutting at a wide one from Daniel Vettori, and edged a catch to Brendon McCullum behind the stumps (196 for 5).

Misbah-ul-Haq and Shoaib Malik fell without causing a flutter and Pakistan looked dead and buried at 227 for 7 in 43.2 overs. They still needed 65 runs from 40 balls with only Razzaq and the tail to follow. In an innings that will long be remembered by those fortunate enough to witness it, Razzaq hit the cover off the ball in a 22-ball display of power hitting. At 47 not out (three fours, two sixes), he found himself an unlikely hero. Pakistan were over the line, and New Zealand could scarcely believe it. The last 65 runs had come off only 28 balls. Things happened so fast, that New Zealand will need a day or two to recover.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.