Cricket: Witless NZ batting gifts series to Pakistan

By David Leggat

Ahmed Shehzad. Photo / Getty Images
Ahmed Shehzad. Photo / Getty Images

To Pakistan go the ODI spoils, a 41-run win at Seddon Park last night giving them a 3-1 lead with one match to play.

The result probably also slices a few thousand off the Eden Park crowd for the finale tomorrow, deprived of a series decider, but there could be no complaints that the superior side won.

Chasing a testing 269 to win, New Zealand made 227, all out in the 47th over.

Only once before had any team scored more than 250 to win an ODI at Seddon Park - New Zealand's epic 350 for nine against Australia in 2007.

The outfield was fast and New Zealand needed their best batsmen on song. Instead someone stuck the lyrics sheet upside down.

You've heard this before, but the batting collective was simply not up to the job. Much of their work was witless.

Jesse Ryder was run out without facing a ball, Martin Guptill blew a royal chance having got himself established, and Brendon McCullum, promoted to No 5, simply blew it, holing out to long on.

Throw in Jamie How - caught for the third straight innings pulling to the deep square leg/mid-wicket region after labouring 39 balls over 12 runs - and the first four wickets had been handed to Pakistan wrapped in a bow.

When Scott Styris was run out for the second time in three days, the die was cast.

Ryder's dismissal was the least forgivable, a piece of pure cricketing nonsense.

Guptill pushed the first ball of the innings to mid-on, Ryder started to run, hadn't gone far, was sent back and lost out to Misbah-ul-Haq's direct hit. It was his fifth duck in nine innings across the three forms of cricket on this tour.

Guptill and Ross Taylor eventually got New Zealand moving and at one point they eased ahead of Pakistan on the comparative run rate.

Both looked good, hitting clean strokes, completing half centuries and had the chance to fulfil coach John Wright's wish for his batsmen to press on to big innings.

It was not to be, and as the required run rate touched 10 an over, the job was beyond the rest.

Pakistan's bowling was aggressive, they stuck to the job, gave little away, and the sum of the parts was impressive.

The hosts had planned to field their first-choice XI in both this game and Eden Park.

But that plan fell over, partly through ill-fortune and partly through choice.

Captain Dan Vettori twinged a hamstring during the loss at Napier on Tuesday and sat out last night's game.

Seamer Tim Southee would have played, but for a feeling among the management that he needed the game off after a heavy workload.

If he had played, Southee would have potentially been required to play four games in eight days after a season of significant progress.

Having been sent in, Pakistan would have reflected that they should have done better, so credit New Zealand's bowlers for that.

Pakistan's innings belonged to Ahmed Shehzad and marked the 19-year-old as a man to keep an eye on in the forthcoming World Cup and beyond. His maiden century in his eighth ODI, 115, came off only 109 balls, and was full of cracking shots.

Shehzad welcomed any opportunity to cut, drove strongly and three times banged Hamish Bennett into the crowd.

He shared three handy stands, 53 for the second wicket with Kamran Akmal - run out by smart fielding from Kyle Mills at short third man - 45 with Younis Khan for the third and 77 from 73 balls with Misbah for the fourth. That was the foundation of the innings.

Had exuberant hitter Shahid Afridi got going, and Umar Akmal had more of the strike when working with the tail, things might have been harder for New Zealand.

The home side's fielding was sharp and there were pockets of impressive work with the ball too. Mills' opening spell was tight, although 21 came from his last two at the end. Oram and offspinner Nathan McCullum also played their part.

- NZ Herald

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