New Zealand overcome Aamer's valiant effort
by Jinu Sabastian

Ground:Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Scorecard:Pakistan v New Zealand
Player:BB McCullum, Mohammad Aamer, Saeed Ajmal
Event:New Zealand in United Arab Emirates 2009/10

DateLine: 9th November 2009


There is an ongoing debate to the relevance of 50-over matches in today's cricketing calendar with many suggesting that the format should either be revised or totally done away with. But today's encounter between New Zealand and Pakistan showed that there is still life left in the format.


Chasing a modest target of 212 to seal the series, New Zealand did extremely well to reduce the Pakistani side to 101 for 9 one stage but then Aamer and Ajmal got together to put a stunning partnership to script a massive turnaround. Aamer was the dominant partner while Ajmal turned over the strike regularly. Slowly but steadily the Pakistanis got their fangs deeper and deeper into the skin of the Kiwis but just at the last moment New Zealand were able to separate the last pair to win the match by a whisker.


Vettori won an all important toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat first. Openers Redmond and McCullum gave the Kiwi side a sound start. The pair was circumspect at the start and once the pace and bounce of the pitch was figured out McCullum opened up. He signaled his intentions clear by slamming Gul straight back over his head for a maximum in the eighth over and the floodgates opened. The runs that came in trickle began to come in a torrent as the pair slowly pressed the accelerator. The pair added 72 in 11.3 overs before a top edge from Redmond landed in the palms of Aamer.


Guptill failed to read the doosra from Ajmal which he spooned to Younis Khan at mid-off and it seemed that the good work done by the opening pair would soon be undone. Meanwhile McCullum crossed his fifty run mark and he dropped the anchor. As long as McCullum was there a target of 300 was well within the sights of New Zealand. The wicket keeper-batsmen had another chance to get a century in the series but he was beaten for turn and chipped lamely back a catch to Shoaib Malik. To add to the chaos Styris failed to beat a direct hit from Butt and found himself well short of the crease as New Zealand 164 for 4 in 33.3 overs.


Taylor didn't look fluent but fought for his 44 before he was trapped in front by Ajmal. From 187 for 5 the lower-order collapsed spectacularly. Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram were trapped by leg before by Ajmal and Neil Broom was done in by a googly from Afridi. New Zealand in the end were all out for 211 in 46.3 overs and it seemed that the target was insufficient.


Pakistan in reply were given a steady start by the openers, Butt and Latif, as the duo put on 47 in 8.2 overs. Unlike in the previous games where Latif was a bit slow for the pace of one-dayers, today he found the boundary ropes early in the innings. In the third over bowled by Mills, Latif pulled, flicked and drove the bowler to distraction as the Pakistani innings slowly found the momentum. Butt joined the fun by crashing Bond through the point for a boundary and it seemed that the Kiwi side had a huge task in their hands.


Butt continued to roll on as he found the boundaries regularly and Vettori seeing that his pacers were ineffective brought himself on. The move proved to be a masterstroke as he struck in the second ball of his spell as he trapped Latif plumb before the stumps. A horrendous mix-up between Butt and Younis Khan, found the former just short of his crease and the skipper did not last long when he edged to Taylor at first slip as New Zealand fought back brilliantly. The slide continued as Malik miscued a pull and the ball landed straight in the palms of Styris and the Pakistani score read a miserable 74 for 4 in 17 overs.


Much hope rested on the broad shoulders of Afridi and Umar Akmal was expected to give the maverick all-rounder the needed support. The pair took their time to settle down before launching into the attack. But unfortunately for the Pakistani side the launch never materialised. New Zealand side chipped away at the Pakistani side as Umar Akmal and Afridi fell in quick succession and New Zealand held the upper hand. To add to the chaos that was unfolding in the middle Kamran Akmal played a needless pull shot which went only as far as mid-on where Vettori took an easy catch. A calamitous mix-up between Gul and Razzaq ended the latter's innings and the former after blocking for long finally holed out into the deep.


With the last man in Aamer played some entertaining shots including slogging Vettori three times over the boundary ropes in an over and in the 37th over the last pair opted for the batting powerplay. It was the cue for Aamer to open up and the tailender simply threw caution to the winds. Vettori was cut fiercely through point, Bond was slapped through covers, Mills clubbed back over his head, upper cut to third man and finally drilled through the covers as the wiry left-hander completed an astonishing half-century. With every stroke the frown on Vettori's forehead grew and an outside chance of a Pakistani win was becoming a reality. As the Pakistani innings progressed the equation was coming to run-a-ball and what would have been an easy win was fast slipping away from the grasp of New Zealand.


Aamer and Ajmal kept their cool as the pair added 103 in 16 overs with Aamer overtaking Douglas Marillier to get the top score for a number ten batsman. Vettori threw whatever he could at the two batsmen but the pair resisted resolutely blunting the bowling attack valiantly. With 8 needed in six balls, Oram dug in one short, Ajmal went for the pull but could get only the top edge which was taken by Mills at fine-leg to end a riveting contest.


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