New Zealand vs Pakistan (Champions Trophy Semi Final)

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Elliott and Vettori fire resilient Black Caps into the final

grant_elliottAn extremely resilient performance from New Zealand saw them down Pakistan by five wickets in a close semi-final yesterday at the Wanderers, taking them through to a final date with their rivals across the Tasman Sea. A well-timed century partnership from Grant Elliott (75 not out) and Daniel Vettori (41) first kept New Zealand in the hunt in what looked like it would be a tense and thrilling finish. Then a well-judged decision to take the batting powerplay with 59 required from eight overs proved decisive and the Kiwis won comfortably with 13 balls to spare.

Despite winning the toss and getting a good start from their openers, Pakistan will have been disappointed with their final total of 233/9, which looked below par on what was a benign surface. Indeed, that total was indebted to an unbroken last wicket partnership of 35 from Mohammad Aamer and Saeed Ajmal, after Pakistan’s innings had subsided to 198/9. This kept Pakistan in the hunt.

Injuries have taken their toll on New Zealand during this competition with Jesse Ryder, Jacob Oram and Daryl Tuffey all ruled out. However, the Kiwis are a tough and well drilled unit and excellently led by the canny Vettori. He led from the front here with 3/43 as well as his telling contribution with the bat and was deservedly made man of the match. The other notable bowling performance came from Ian Butler who took a career best 4/44.

After Imran Nazir and Kamran Akmal had given Pakistan a solid start in reaching the ninth over at 43 without loss, Shane Bond bowled a magnificent over the highlight of which was the fourth ball. Bond, who has been out of international cricket for some time, got one to rise sharply and Nazir was only able to fend the ball to Ross Taylor at slip. When Butler then got Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal in successive overs, Pakistan were suddenly 69/3. This soon became 86/4 when Younis Khan got a leading edge to short cover – a soft dismissal that gave Vettori has first wicket.

Mohammad Yousuf and Umar Akmal were now left with a repair job. This they managed in a partnership of 80, but Yousuf in particular was probably too circumspect – his 45 coming off 78 balls. If Yousuf got out before he accelerated then the pressure may tell on the batsmen to follow. This proved to be the case when Yousuf’s unlucky dismissal (playing on to Butler) led to five wickets falling for only 32 runs as Pakistan slumped to 198/9, making a mess of their batting powerplay. The only bright spot for Pakistan was yet another good innings by nineteen year old Umar Akmal, who made 55 off only 62 balls before falling leg before to Vettori.

The momentum that had emphatically sat with New Zealand was retrieved in part by the last wicket stand of 35 between Aamer and Ajmal and with New Zealand’s injury concerns and consequent thin batting line up, captain Younis Khan seemed pretty confident as his side took the field. This feeling would have intensified after his bowlers managed to restrict New Zealand to 71/3 with dangermen Brendan McCullum and Martin Guptill back in the hutch. Aamer followed up his batting with a fantastic display of bowling – this seventeen year old is some prospect.

This brought the Kiwis best batsman Taylor together with eventual hero Elliott and they built a fifty partnership to keep their side in contention. Just after Taylor had hit his second six – a huge effort out of the ground off Afridi – the same bowler got his revenge by bowling him for 38. This left New Zealand 126/4 after 29.5 overs and Pakistan were looking slight favourites. Vettori decided to take the responsibility and promoted himself up the batting order ahead of Neil Broom and James Franklin to accompany Elliott.

The pair dealt mainly in singles and twos as they nursed their side towards the batting powerplay whilst keeping themselves in range of the required run rate. Then just as it had proved so crucial in enabling the Kiwis to restrict Pakistan during their innings, New Zealand emphatically got the better of the batting powerplay again. First, Vettori opened up hitting boundaries off Ajmal, Aamer and Naved-ul-Hasan. Then Elliott came to the party, first in taking advantage of an over from Naved that included two no-balls, and then smashing Umar Gul for four, four and six in three balls.

The result was now a formality and despite Vettori being stumped off Ajmal when trying to hit the winning boundary, New Zealand coasted to their target with well over two overs still to go.

So, the Black Caps move on to the final – who’d have thought that was possible after the dismal defeat in their opening match against South Africa. It is difficult to see them beating Australia but if Vettori has another prominent game, who knows? Although Pakistan will be disappointed to lose, they should take comfort in the fact that their blend of experience and precocious youth should take them far in all forms of the game.

Match 14: 2nd Semi-Final – Johannesburg New Zealand 234/5 (47.5 overs) Elliott 75 not out, Vettori 41 beat Pakistan 233/9 (50 overs) Umar Akmal 55, Yousuf 45, Butler 4/44, Vettori 3/43 by five wickets


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