It was a game that was Pakistan’s for the taking. But, four crazy overs of slog over bowling and some childish fielding from the unpredictable Asians turned things around 360 degree. Ross Taylor, who was dropped twice at the start of his innings, one being a simple, straightforward chance to wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal and one going between the keeper and slips, went on to play the innings of the lifetime. Until the last five overs of the innings, Pakistan were in control, courtesy Umar Gul whose tight bowling and wicket-taking kept New Zealand’s score under check.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, it was actually the silence before the storm. Shoaib Akhtar bowled a plethora of full tosses and was treated by the well-set Taylor with the least of respect. All those deliveries found their way over the ropes as Akhtar could do nothing but watch in embarrassing amazement. Taylor threw his bat at everything and was rewarded suitably as he also brought up his birthday century. There was more come in the innings of the lifetime as Taylor dished out similar treatment to Abdul Razzaq. Like Akhtar, Razzaq was also guilty of bowling a number of full tosses. And not surprisingly, those deliveries were dispatched easily over the ropes. And even when the bowler managed to land the ball on the pitch, the ball was creamed to the fence along the ground. The bowlers had absolutely no answer to the Taylor assault. Inspired by Taylor, Nathan McCullum and Jacob Oram also played wonderful cameos as Pakistan bowlers succumbed to the pressure.
Taylor’s was the kind of innings New Zealand needed to lift themselves up following some disappointing efforts in recent times. Taylor hadn’t been the greatest form going into the tournament. In fact, he had been struggling for quite a while. Also, his record on the sub continent had been below par prior to this tournament. In spite of all this, Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori had backed Taylor to come good sooner rather than later in the tournament. And that’s exactly what happened. Taylor went from strength to strength as the innings progressed and hurt Pakistan badly for their misdemeanours with both the ball and in the field.
Once Taylor and co had blasted Pakistan in the manner they did, there seemed to be no way back for the Pakistanis. So shell-shocked were they that in time the Pakistanis had lost six wickets and the game was all but over. It was only a blazing counter attack by Abdul Razzaq that the Asian giants something to cheer about. He got some good support from Umar Gul towards the end. But, that was only a case of too little too late.
Apart from Taylor, Martin Guptill’s half-century will also give assurance to New Zealand at the top of the order. He has been in good form of late and the Kiwis will want him to continue that in the coming matches as well. What they need now is for Brendon McCullum to find his groove. He did perform well in the previous game against Zimbabwe. However, New Zealand will need McCullum to be more consistent in the coming games. Among the other worries, the injury to skipper Vettori will be a bit of a worry to them.
From Pakistan’s point of view, they will need to get their bowling act at the death right. Also, their fielding needs to go up by a few notches. And, of course, their batting under pressure needs to improve. They have been caught napping on more than a couple of occasions now and were bailed out by Shahid Afridi. The business end of the tournament is just about to begin and Pakistan need to put the past victories behind them and look ahead to the bigger battles that are ahead.