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.