Pakistan proved the tag of bad chasers of wrong for the second time in less than seven months when they overhauled New Zealand's 277 with three wickets and 17 balls to spare to clinch the One-day International series at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium Wednesday night.
The victory in the second One-day International gave the Asian champions an unassailable 2-0 lead over the ICC Champions Trophy winners with the last match scheduled at Lahore Saturday.
Pakistan, who successfully chased 272 against Sri Lanka at Sharjah last October, looked dead and buried when they lost Imran Nazir and Yousuf Youhana in the first eight balls. But then two useful partnerships of 73 for the third wicket and 93 for the fourth turned the match in Pakistan's favour. And though there were minor hiccups at the end, Rashid Latif ensured that Pakistan didn't let the initiative slip with a priceless unbeaten 28.
The architects of Pakistan's victory were, however, Younis Khan, who stroked a flawless 70 off 91 balls, and Abdul Razzaq who clobbered 10 fours and a six in his superb 84-ball 86.
The flamboyant Shahid Afridi gave the initial impetus to the innings with a rapid 36-ball 40 before perishing to a premeditated sweep off Scott Styris.
Both Younis and Razzaq justified the decision of skipper Waqar Younis to promote them ahead of the experienced Inzamam-ul-Haq. But the decision also left a few questions unanswered. If Inzamam was demoted because of bad form, why he was retained as Pakistan, for the seventh straight match, kept faith in the same side that started its Sharjah Cup defence earlier this month. And if he was selected in spite of bad form, why he was not sent at No 3 which would have provided him ample time to settle down and come out of a poor patch.
Inzamam scored 26 but he faces the axe for the third match, particularly after Pakistan is expected to make changes.
Younis, who hit his fourth half century in five matches, played a well controlled innings. The 25-year-old Pathan showed good defensive technique to good balls but at the same time punished anything lose that fetched him seven boundaries. The high point of Younis's innings was his excellent timing and perfect placing.
Nevertheless, despite doing all the hard work, Younis threw his wicket by attempting to cut Walker only to get his stumps rattled.
Despite losing Younis, Razzaq kept his composure and continued to plunder runs all over the park through his unorthodox style. He showed nice wrist work by playing delicate leg glances and off his toes strokes.
When Pakistan needed 26 off 45 balls for victory, Styris foxed Razzaq with a slow off-spinner. But the Middlesex-bound all-rounder had done his job to perfection though it would have been nice if he had returned undefeated.
New Zealand had their chances to dismiss Younis and Razzaq. But one of the finest fielding sides failed to pounce on the opportunities. Lou Vincent and Walker needed direct throws to run out both but failed to hit the stumps.
Overall, it was a collective and team effort by the Pakistan batsmen who have repeatedly buckled down while chasing big totals. There was commitment, discipline and purpose behind their batting that thoroughly entertained a full house of 18,000 spectators.
Earlier, Craig McMillan scored his second One-day International century to propel the Black Caps to an imposing 277 for five. McMillan, whose other century was also against Pakistan last year at Christchurch, was out in the last over after hitting a 116-ball 105. But it was sad that he ended up on the losing side, chiefly because New Zealand didn't have the fire and penetration in their bowling.
McMillan slapped eight boundaries and a six and featured in two fruitful partnerships. For the second wicket with Matthew Horne, he added 96 runs from 125 balls and then for the third wicket, he put 92 runs off 83 balls with Adams.
Horne chipped in with a fluent 62 - his fifth half century in 49 matches - that included seven boundaries from 91 balls. Adams, promoted to use long handle after the platform was set, contributed run-a-ball 45 with six hits to the fence.
It was McMillan who maintained New Zealand's steady run-rate. After the visitors collected 141 for two from the first 30 overs, McMillan made sure that his side added almost an equal number of runs in the remaining twenty overs.
With New Zealand reaching 210 for two from 40 overs, prospects of a score of more than 300 looked on cards. But the Pakistan bowlers, who failed to make a good use of the new ball by allowing McMillan and company build partnerships, pulled things back in the death overs by bowling in the block holes. The end result was that New Zealand could muster only 67 runs.
The pace trio of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar bowled their hearts out on a strip full of runs. Shoaib, who wanted to perform well before his home crowd, finished with wicketless for 51 while Wasim recovered after giving away 22 off his first four overs to end up with two for 58. Waqar was the pick of the bowlers with two for 46.