Pakistan on Thursday came back into the Sharjah Cup contest in style when they defeated New Zealand by 51 runs here on Thursday. Batting first Pakistan made 288 for 6 from 50 overs , the highest in this tournament so far, and then restricted the Kiwis to 237 for 8 in 50 overs.
After having lost the opener, today's win was imperative for Pakistan to keep their chances alive. It was Pakistan's 9th win against New Zealand. The Kiwis have yet to win a match against Pakistan here.
After today's match - at the half-way mark - all three teams have now one win with Pakistan heading the points table followed by Sri Lanka and New Zealand. The second round will begin from tomorrow (Friday) when Sri Lanka will play against Pakistan.
The Pakistanis in the end proved too good for the Kiwis having dominated in every department of the game. One was amused with the noticeable transformation compared to their performance against Sri Lanka on Monday when they were beaten by 41 runs after a very timid performance with the bat.
The Kiwis' run-chase at no stage looked threatening. They lost two early wickets, Nathan Astle (12) once again going out cheaply and 2 runs later Mathew Sinclair was clean bowled by Waqar Younis for nought when the total was 34. Chris Nevin (40) put up some resistance but fell to a slower from Shoaib Akhtar to be caught by Waqar for 40.
The only bright patch in the Kiwi innings was a gritty 112-run 4th wicket partnership between skipper Craig McMillan (51) and Chris Harris (54). Once these two departed within a span of four runs - at 182 and 186 - the match was almost over.
For Pakistan Waqar captured 3 for 43, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq two each, while Wasim got one.
Earlier, Waqar won the toss and taking a queue from the results of the first two matches, decided to bat first. A pattern seems to have evolved here in this tournament - captains winning the toss have opted to bat first and teams chasing have lost in the first two matches.
Pakistan played the same team which was beaten by Sri Lanka in the opener. Openers Imran Nazir and Shahid Afridi made a breezy start putting on 61 runs in the first 10 overs. Afridi, who was out in the first over in the match against Sri Lanka, batted far more sensibly today. He gave torrid time to Kiwi bowlers, hitting seven boundaries and three sixes in his quick-fire 56 of 53 balls.
Pakistan lost the first wicket at 98 when Afridi tried to heave a Scot Styris delivery over the bowler's head and completely missed the line. Abdul Razzak, promoted to number 3 position, survived just two balls, to be brilliantly caught by Chris Nevin off Styris for 0.
Imran Nazir, who was looking well set by now, tried to glance Styris, got an outside edge to be caught behind after making 47 from 46 balls. He and Afridi laid the foundation for a winning score, scoring 98 for the opening stand.
Yousuf Youhana disappointed for the second time within three days, becoming the third victim of the Nevim-Styris combination. Pakistan were 146 for 4 when Younis Khan joined Inzamamul Haq and added 105 most valuable runs. Inzamam made 68 while Younis chipped in 56 runs. Wasim Akram (28) and Rashid Latif (7) remained unbeaten when the Pakistan innings closed at 288 for 6 from 50 overs.
New Zealand's new wicket-keeper Nevin, who has replaced Adam Parore, showed marked improvement compared to his performance against Sri Lanka on Tuesday. Today Nevin looked a changed person and was ultimately rewarded with three catches.
The pick of the Kiwi bowlers was Styris, finishing the match with 4 for 30 from 10 overs, while Tuffey and Craig McMillan shared two wickets.