Cricket: Pakistan eyeing series victory

By David Leggat

Nathan McCullum looks for runs during his unbeaten half century at McLean Park yesterday. Photo / Getty Images
Nathan McCullum looks for runs during his unbeaten half century at McLean Park yesterday. Photo / Getty Images

Pakistan can wrap up their ODI series against New Zealand with victory in Hamilton tomorrow after a topsy-turvy, two-wicket win in game four last night.

Needing 263, Pakistan got there after some alarms along the way, courtesy of man of the match Misbah-ul-Haq's unbeaten 93 off 91 balls, with the final honours going to tailender Sohail Tanvir.

Pakistan wanted 14 off the last two overs, and he did it in just one, smearing Tim Southee to the fence three times.

New Zealand had glimmers of hope along the way. But they batted poorly, worked hard with the ball but were always up against it and on balance didn't deserve the win which Pakistan occasionally threatened to hand back to them.

When Pakistan were 84 for three, things were intriguingly placed.

However the veterans, Younis Khan and Misbah, reshaped the game and made batting look comfortable, putting on 89 untroubled runs before Younis was run out, sent back on a sharp single and slipping.

With 78 needed off the last 10 overs, Pakistan looked fidgety.

When Umar Akmal and the dangerous Shahid Afridi departed within three balls, the game seemed to have swung decisively New Zealand's way.

But Abdul Razzaq had other ideas. He bounced Southee off the seats at mid wicket and 17 came from the 44th over.

Misbah moved into the nineties with solid blows before Sohail finished the job.

New Zealand's batsmen need to take a hard look at themselves after falling headlong over a cliff earlier in the day. At 79 for five in the 21st over, they looked as good as buried.

That they managed to reach 262 for seven, and give their bowlers something to work with, was largely down to the efforts of James Franklin - who was only called in yesterday morning to replace Wellington provincial mate Jesse Ryder, who was ruled out by a finger injury - and Nathan McCullum.

Without their resourcefulness, plus a bright 37 from Brendon McCullum along with 33 extras, New Zealand would have been in a sorry state on what is the country's best batting pitch.

What made it worse was all five wickets were effectively gifted away.

Martin Guptill, Jamie How and Kane Williamson all unerringly found catchers at short mid wicket, deep square leg and long on respectively.

Taylor drove lavishly at left armer Wahab Riaz slanting the ball across him to be caught at slip while Styris' run out was dumb cricket. Williamson cut to backward point, Styris charged down the pitch, Williamson stayed and the veteran was run out by half a pitch.

Indeed, the running between the wickets throughout the New Zealand innings was distinctly hairy, and that's being kind.

"Unfortunately some guys got out to balls you really shouldn't get out to," captain Daniel Vettori said.

"Five for 80 at McLean Park is not acceptable. It's a great batting deck."

In that first hour, New Zealand looked as if they felt they needed 300-plus to feel confident.

Things began well but there was a suspicion some of the batsmen were looking to sprint before completing the preliminary jog on a ground where runmaking is often regarded as a doddle. Franklin was dropped at backward point on 23 but his 62 off 75 balls enhanced a strong recent record since being recalled for the ODI series in India before Christmas.

Nathan McCullum's unbeaten 53 was his first half-century and demonstrated his late-innings skills.

Had Pakistan bowled remotely consistently, New Zealand would not have reached 250. The bowlers gave up 19 wides and 12 no balls in a performance of seriously mixed quality.

- NZ Herald

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