From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.25 :: Jun. 20, 2009
Pakistan are not so much the dark horses of the World Twenty20 as its Black Bess, as pitch and hueless as midnight in the woods. Their semi-isolation from international cricket in the past 18 months has left their team looking debilitated, but their performances remain as unpredictable as when they were at their chaotically brilliant best.
They defeated New Zealand by six wickets with 6.5 overs to spare, to sustain their outlandish hopes of reaching the semifinals. Before the match against the Kiwis they had beaten only Holland in this tournament, but they bowled New Zealand out for 99 - redolent of England's rather effete innings in their ill-fated Stanford Challenge match.
It was also the lowest total made by a Test-playing side in this competition, if we ignore that little seven-over match. And Umar Gul confirmed his status as one of the major figures of the whole shebang. Gul, who was twice on a hat-trick, became the first bowler to take five wickets in a Twenty20 international. So now, following his figures of four for eight against Australia in Dubai earlier this year, he possesses the best and third-best figures in this genre of the game. He took five for six in three overs.
"It was a fantastic spell," Pakistan captain Younis Khan said of Gul's bowling. "If we can have a spell like that in every game, we can beat every team in the world."
Gul managed to reverse-swing the ball, confounding New Zealand's batsmen. "It is not the first time he has done this," Khan said. "He has a good action to reverse swing the ball, he has pace and he played here for Surrey (last season) so he knows this ground."
Kiwi captain Daniel Vettori said he had never seen anything like it. "He started to reverse-swing it after 12 overs and I don't think that's ever happened in the history of Twen ty20 cricket," he said. "It made a massive difference. I don't know how he did it."
But Pakistan also looked a stronger side for the inclusion of the experienced Abdul Razzaq at the expense of the callow Sohail Tanvir. The dancing green wigs worn by some Pakistan supporters stood out as victory was achieved in the fading light; the beige, retro strips worn by some New Zealand supporters, were lost in the deepening gloom.
There was no better demonstration of New Zealand's malaise than when two of their fielders collided attempting to take a catch as Shahid Afridi - who had already taken an outstanding running catch - hit the winning runs.
Vettori, who had identified 180 as a par score on a pitch traditionally supportive of batsmen, said afterwards: "It's incredibly difficult to defend 100. We just didn't get a big enough total to exert pressure." Pakistan's victorious Younis Khan grinned: "We took wickets in the first six overs. That was the telling point for us."
New Zealand have missed Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder and Vettori in this tournament. The best news for them was that Vettori passed himself to play - the worst was that he won the toss and chose to bat because they started badly and got steadily worse, in the manner of a film starring the newly knighted Christopher Lee.
New Zealand usually prefer to chase. Their highest scorer in an innings which perished nine balls before its time was Scott Styris, who made just 22. Not one of their last seven batsmen reached double figures. Already without some of their best stroke-players, the Kiwis needed something from Brendon McCullum at the top of the order and he looked in the mood when he drove his first ball through the covers for four.
But he had scored 12 from six deliveries when he cut to backwardpoint in the second over. New Zealand were never able to engage second gear after that, losing wickets at regular intervals and batting conservatively - often looking for singles instead of boundaries - even when times were desperate (they hit only four fours and a six in their entire innings).
Styris and Jacob Oram, who made five from 11, flirted with consolidation and retrenchment when this hectic game allows no such luxuries. Even when an innings is in intensive care, it must keep running.
New Zealand v Pakistan. Result: Pakistan won by six wickets.
New Zealand: B. McCullum c Alam b Razzaq 12; A. Redmond c Gul b Aamer 15; M. Guptill lbw b Razzaq 8; S. Styris c Afridi b Gul 22; J. Oram c Misbah-ul-Haq b Afridi 5; P. McGlashan lbw b Gul 8; N. McCullum b Gul 7; J. Franklin b Gul 7; D. Vettori (run out) 8; K. Mills c Hasan b Gul 0; I. Butler (not out) 1; Extras (lb-4, w-2) 6. Total (in 18.3 overs) 99.
Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-33, 3-37, 4-55, 5-73, 6-73, 7-88, 8-93, 9-93.
Pakistan bowling: Aamer 3-0-23-1; Razzaq 3.3-1-17-2; Ajmal 4-0-24-0; Afridi 4-0-17-1; Malik 1-0-8-0; Gul 3-0-6-5.
Pakistan: K. Akmal† c Guptill b Mills 19; S. Hasan (run out) 35; A. Razzaq c McGlashan b Vettori 5; S. Malik c B. McCullum b Vettori 4; S. Afridi (not out) 29; Younis Khan (not out) 6; Extras (w-1, nb-1) 2; Total (for four wkts., in 13.1 overs) 100.
Fall of wickets: 1-36, 2-61, 3-61, 4-71.
New Zealand bowling: Mills 4-0-28-1; Franklin 2-0-19-0; Vettori 4-0-20-2; Butler 2-0-22-0; N. McCullum 1.1-0-11-0.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009
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