The pitch at McLean Park was full of runs and Brendon McCullum unhesitatingly opted to bat first after winning the toss in the second ODI against Pakistan last Tuesday. McCullum himself led the charge by forcefully blasting 31 off 43 in the first wicket stand. Then Guptill, Williamson and Ross Taylor picked up from where their skipper left to mount 369/5. Pakistan made a brave start with a 111-run first-wicket stand but the target was too stiff to be within Pakistan’s reach. Once the openers departed and Shahid Afridi was dismissed cheaply, wickets kept falling at regular intervals. With the Kiwi bowlers maintaining constant pressure, backed by some deft fielding, Pakistan’s innings wilted in the 44th over and New Zealand ran away with an easy 119-run victory to take the series 2-0.
The New Zealand captain knew about the pitch at Napier and he was happy to bat first in an attempt to make the most of easy batting conditions on the fresh wicket. McCullum himself led from front and lent the initial thrust to the innings, clobbering 5 fours and a six, McCullum left after Shahid Afridi deceived him by one that came in sharply and the New Zealand skipper was cramped for space. He missed the intended chop and lost his middle stump. Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson, however, did not allow the momentum to wane and crafted a 128-run second-wicket stand in very good time. The best part of the New Zealand innings came after Guptill departed to a soft dismissal. The irrepressible Ross Taylor made a crucial difference in the later stages of the New Zealand innings. In the company of his closest mate Kane Williamson, Taylor was unstoppable in his assault. Between the two of them, they added 79 at a reasonably brisk pace. Williamson was out after he finished his part in the innings. It was another century from the right hander, who has been in terrific form for some time. This bodes well for New Zealand with the ICC Cricket World Cup just about to get underway. Williamson scored an 88-ball 112 with 14 boundaries and a six. But the Taylor show was yet to unfold.
When Williamson was still there, New Zealand had scored 181/2 in 30 over but they added more than double of that score in the remaining 20. With Ross Taylor in murderous form, Pakistan failed to apply brakes to the waltzing New Zealand innings. Taylor and Grant Elliott competed with one another in swatting Bilawal Bhatti for sixes in the 43rd over and in his next over, Bhatti went for 21, the biggest of the innings. Even after Elliott holed out to Adil, Taylor’s swinging run continued. He spoiled the bowlers’ figures and carried on remorselessly. Bhatti came back to bowl the last over of the innings with Taylor on 88. He hit the first ball for four but missed the next three balls; two of them were punishable on the offside. He was still 92 with two balls remaining. Of the fifth delivery, Taylor heaved as the ball found itself among the crowd and completed a brave century off the last ball with a thick outside edge to the third man boundary. Taylor remained unbeaten on 102 but more importantly, he helped New Zealand score 116 in the last 10 overs of the innings with his personal contribution being 73 off 36. The final score of 369/5 was too tough to handle for any team.
Chasing 370 was like trying to get the moon. But Pakistan openers, Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez still began positively with a 111-run opening stand. However, the rate of scoring was well below the required rate. Hafeez looked in good touch but the gap between victory and defeat was far too great in terms of runs required. At 30-over mark, Pakistan needed 203 in 20 overs with Hafeez not out on 80. Pakistan took the batting Powerplay and Hafeez perished in trying to loft Elliott over the square leg boundary. Old warhorse Shahid Afridi came early to hasten the score but he couldn’t last long. With Umar Akmal also departing in the next over, any semblance of a Pakistani victory evaporated. Except Sarfraz Ahmad, no other middle order batsman could cross double figures as Pakistan collapsed from 187/3 to 250 all out. New Zealand won by 119 runs with nearly seven overs remaining.
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