New Zealand win a close encounter
by Jinu Sabastian

Ground:University Oval, Dunedin
Scorecard:New Zealand v Pakistan
Player:IE O'Brien, Umar Akmal, SE Bond
Event:Pakistan in New Zealand 2009/10

DateLine: 28th November 2009


The match swung to and froth in almost every session and finally New Zealand held their nerve to win the match and go 1-0 up the Test series. Both the teams fought hard to gain control of the math and at no stage did the match lost its edge. This match further gave proof that on a sporting wicket which balances the contest between bat and ball and more importantly if the two sides are evenly matched Test cricket can still throw up surprises.


The last two wickets of Zealand did not add much to the overnight score as Gul produced two good balls which accounted for O'Brien and Elliot. O'Brien (4) was trapped leg before by a fuller length delivery while Elliot (25) gloved one down the leg-side off Gul and the Kiwi innings folded up for 153 as New Zealand set Pakistan a target of 251 to win in nearly 80 overs.


The Pakistani openers in reply never looked comfortable in their stay in the middle as the new ball pair of Bond and Martin troubled the two right-handers with pace and movement. Manzoor (4) got the Pakistani innings off the block when he glided a Bond delivery past the slips for a boundary but of the next ball McCullum pulled off a stunner. Bond got the edge of Manzoor's bat and the ball was dying as it was reaching the keeper and McCullum was quick to think on his feet as he dived to his right to pluck the catch inches of the ground. Farhat (1) was put out of his misery when he finally edged a Martin delivery straight to McIntosh at second slip who took a well judged catch.


Yousuf decided to hit out against the Kiwi bowling attack and h took on Martin as he straight drove the pacer straight down the ground, drove crisply through the covers and then sealed off the over with an emphatic six over fine leg. Fawad Alam was peppered with some sharp bouncers by the Kiwi bowlers and he very nearly gave Bond a return catch as he fended off a rising delivery from the pacer. Vettori was smart enough to react as he stationed a silly mid-on and the player was immediately brought into play as Alam spooned a simple catch to the fielder as Pakistan slipped to 24 for 3 with trouble looming over the Pakistani innings. Yousuf and the young gun Akmal joined hands to revive the Pakistani innings and the pair negotiated the Kiwi bowling well.


Akmal continued from where he let off from the first innings as played some crisp shots to all parts of the ground as he along with his skipper put the innings right back on track. Akmal was helped by the fact that Vettori set defensive fields and he was able to get into his stride easily by pinching the singles to get the blood to circulate in his legs. Once he got his eye in he displayed the confidence and maturity that he displayed in the first innings. The pair took Pakistan past the lunch and then began to play some aggressive shots. The pair brought up their 50 run partnership and Akmal showed the amount of control that the pair exerted on the Kiwi bowling as he slog-swept Vettori for a huge six to signal that the chase was on.


The pair added 71 in 26.1 overs and was looking threatening for the Kiwis when Martin produced out of nowhere a snorter that Yousuf (41) could only glove it through to the keeper. Akmal continued his confident display as he tormented the Kiwi bowlers displaying no signs of nerves that is so much evident for a Test debutant. His batting was crisp, defence impeccable as he displayed exemplary technique to blunt the Kiwi bowlers with wide range of shots and got to his second fifty of the match. Vettori turned to the medium pace of Elliot in hope of getting a break-through and he very nearly got his skipper a wicket as Malik spooned a simple return catch to the bowler. But unfortunately for the Kiwis the bowler dropped it. The pair added 66 in 18 overs to put Pakistan on course for a win when just at the stroke of tea O'Brien got one to rise sharply which Malik (32) top-edged feebly to keeper McCullum to give some hope to the New Zealand team.


The Akmal brothers then steadied the innings with some aggressive stroke-play and Vettori entrusted the job of getting the break through to his premier bowler Bond and he bowled with some good degree of ferocity. The pair added 34 runs in 9.3 overs and victory was well within the grasp of Pakistan when disaster struck. Bond bowled a series of away swingers after tea and then slipped in an inswinger which surprised Umar Akmal (75) who spooned a catch back to the bowler who accepted the catch gleefully. The twist continued as O'Brien who till then had bowled skillfully but without much luck trapped Kamran (27) leg before who unsuccessfully challenged the appeal but to no avail.


The wicket of Umar Gul (4) was a smart piece of captaincy from Vettori as the batsmen chipped lamely to the short extra cover placed tempting him to go over the top. Bond in his comeback test showed that he still had fire within him as he generated good pace even when he was bowling his seventh over of his spell while O'Brien, though one-dimensional in nature, began to bowl some unplayable deliveries to the tail. Asif and Aamer hung around playing and missing several deliveries before Vettori brought an end to the ninth wicket association between the two when he got the former to edge a straighter one to Taylor at slip. He then finished off the match when he accepted the return catch from Aamer (15) to give New Zealand the lead in the series.