Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shehzad’s maiden ton takes Pakistan to series win

It came after almost 2 years (17 years in New Zealand) but it came amidst the usual Pakistani rallying chant of “Pakistan Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad”. Led by the impressive and confident young opener Ahmed Shehzad, Pakistan beat New Zealand in the 5th ODI here at Hamilton to claim the series 3-1 with one to play.
What did come time and time again in the series was a consistent performance from at least one of the Pakistani opener and this time it was the 19 year old Shehzad, who went on to score his maiden ODI century and laid a solid platform for the Pakistani big-hitting lower order. That they were unable to properly take advantage of it is another story.
After winning the toss, Ross Taylor who was captaining the side decided to bowl first to take advantage of the overcast conditions and during the first 4 overs it looked like a good decision when some tidy bowling kept Pakistani openers at bay. Mohammad Hafeez who has finally started to fulfill his potential broke free with a couple of boundaries but soon found his way back to the pavilion after he played an uppish shot to mid-off where he was caught.
Hafeez’s dismissal emboldened the young gun from Lahore and he counterattacked in brilliant fashion while wickets kept tumbling at the other end. Yet another streaky innings by Kamran Akmal came to an end soon when he only had himself to blame for his run out. Younis Khan the elder statesmen flattered to deceive but fell to a top-edge while playing a sweep shot.
Uber-confident Shehzad smacks one

Nothing bothered Shehzad though and he continued his merry ways by easily picking singles and putting away bad deliveries and raced to the nervous 90’s. The 19 year old played some wonderful cut shots of the Kiwi medium pacers and anything short was dispatched to the midwicket boundary. Instead of faltering under pressure he launched Bennet to a 6 over cow corner and reached his maiden ton with swagger.
After he fell the Pakistani lower order struggled to put bat on ball and where once 300 looked like a possibility Pakistan only managed to make 268 in their allotted 50 overs with captain Afridi, Umer Akmal & Misbah pitching in with cameos.
New Zealand got off to the most horrendous of starts when Ryder was run-out without facing a delivery on the first ball of the innings. Martin Guptill along with Jamie How fought back for a while but when Wahab Riaz removed How for 12 after a painful innings, NZ hopes were delivered a big blow.
Stand in Captain Ross Taylor and Guptill managed to keep the scoreboard ticking and seemed to have built a good partnership but when Guptill fell to a short delivery from Akhtar against the run of play, New Zealand were 112-3.
Taylor was the only stiff resistance Pakistan faced and when Afridi removed him New Zealand had resigned to their fate and folded quickly afterwards leaving Pakistan ecstatic at an ODI series win after 2 years.
The series win comes at a crucial time when the world cup is only two weeks away. Things are finally looking rosy for Pakistan as the whole unit is pitching in with consistent performances day in day out. Everyone has stood up and made themselves count over the course of the series win and that is something we don’t usually associate with Pakistan. The biggest positive has been the good fielding and catching with the young blood inspiring the old legs to be more alert in the field.
The biggest positive in my opinion however is the passion the team is displaying. It is genuinely looking like the team is enjoying out there in the field and the team culture which has often been Pakistan’s undoing on many previous occasions is looking solid.
One can easily figure it out the way our boys celebrated the win out there in the middle, with their faces brimming with confidence and contentment. The only thing left now is the captaincy announcement, and there should be no doubt on who should get the honor of leading Team Green in the upcoming mega event.


  1. Ahmed Shehzad struck his maiden ODI century in the 5th ODI at Hamilton as Pakistan won by 41 runs to claim the series 3-1 with a game to play and consequently also win their first ODI series in New Zealand since 1994. Congratulations to everyone on our very first ODI Series Victory in 8 attempts. Congratulations to Shahid Khan Afridi on winning his first ODI Series as captain. On the whole, the tour has been a resounding, refreshing and highly significant success by winning both the Test and ODI series on foreign territory even with endless problems and tough political conditions. PCT is a buzzing environment presently. What a feeling. What a moment. What a performance. What an achievement.

    Things are drastically falling into place very excitingly when it matters.

    Misbah is the better captain overall BUT:
    Although I have been a strong short term critic of Afridi’s captaincy, I have still stated on numerous occasions that winning even with a limited captain is achievable, but is significantly more harder and in more demanding match situations his limitations could be easily exploitable. However, he has done well in this series and proven a few points or two to his doubters like myself. I firmly believe we have managed to compensate for his limitations with individual brilliances which make the game equation more favourable and so he can simply do what he does best with focussing on energy and motivation. Furthermore, I feel the presence of Misbah in the ODI starting line up has made a useful difference and provided the advice, tactical support, composure, responsibility and professionalism which has assisted the side and helped Afridi out there in the middle. In specific areas he has improved where I will give him credit. The Misbah-Afridi partnership has worked exceptionally well in commanding the side in a controlled and developing manner, something Pakistan will be banking on in the forthcoming World Cup.

  2. This is what I said about Ahmed Shehzad on the 10th of December. The results are certainly showing and him and I are certainly living up to our words! The Tendulkar of this generation! Anyway, when I said this at the time people were arguing he is not good enough and does not deserve to be in the team which goes to show how much they doubted him and did not rate the young talent of Pakistan, however I stood my ground backing and praising him throughout and today he played a beauty. Here is what I said before he returned.

    "One of the potential stand out performers and eye catchers during the series could be the dashing sensational 19 year old opener from Lahore called Ahmed Shehzad who has been named in the squad on the back of some impressive domestic form where he instrumentally helped his Lahore Lions team win the Faysal Bank T20 tournament scoring 191 runs in 5 matches at an average of 38.2 including 40 valuable runs in the final against Karachi Dolphins on the 16th of October under lights at the Gaddafi Stadium. He followed this up with an excellent Hong Kong Super Sixes campaign where he showed natural talent, helping PK reach the final and thrived in the pressure matches which suggests a lot about his capabilities mentally. I am backing him to come good at the top and have high hopes of successful and prosperous future for the exceptionally talented young tiger. I will even predict that he will be the leading run getter in the 3 Match series at the end of this month . Currently as I dictate this article he is the leading run scorer in the Quaid E Azam Trophy which is Pakistan's premier first class stage. His selection is a thoroughly justifiable one and I am glad the selectors have given him the opportunity when his form is in top notch.

    He is blessed with excellent hand eye coordination and is an attractive stylish stroke maker who is a strong front foot player as well as someone who can play crossed batted shots. Can be extremely useful in the Power Play over's as he likes to get on top and express himself. He has played 4 ODIs and 2 T20s previously in 2009 and did reasonably well for a 17 year old. I felt that he was treated unfairly and deserved an extended run to prove his worth. However, he is now more than ever ready for the challenges of international cricket."