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18 December 201401:00

New Zealand draws level in tight finish

Williamson leads from the front with classy ton; Younis, Afridi battle but Pakistan falls just short

New Zealand draws level in tight finish - Cricket News
It was a contest fought tooth and nail, New Zealand just about keeping its nerve in a tense and tight finish to trump Pakistan by seven runs in the fourth One-Day International at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday (December 17).

The series-levelling win was masterminded by Kane Williamson, the centurion and skipper, and Daniel Vettori, who turned in a stellar show with the ball in the face of a late onslaught by Younus Khan and Shahid Afridi. New Zealand, which posted an imposing 299 for 5 on the back of Williamson's sparkling 123, restricted Pakistan to 292 for 8, Vettori returning figures of 3 for 53 off 10 overs. Their combined effort also reduced Younis's resilient century and Afridi’s blistering cameo to a sideshow.

That New Zealand got into a winning position in the first place was courtesy a masterful knock by Williamson. The 24-year old, who smashed 12 fours during his 105-ball vigil, became the youngest New Zealand captain to score an ODI ton. The pleasing aspect of Williamson’s knock was the manner in which he combined oodles of patience with timing and brute force to help New Zealand build a strong base before the final flourish.

Pakistan's chase started in disastrous fashion as it lost Ahmed Shehzad for a duck. The top order then came under examination during a fiery burst by Adam Milne and Matt Henry, the pacers. Younus's quest to hold the innings together and be the pivot wasn't helped by Nasir Jamshed (30) and Mohammad Hafeez's (3) injudicious shot selection as Pakistan slipped to 82 for 4 in the 22nd over.

What looked like a lost cause was then revived by Younus and Umar Akmal, who added 90 for the fifth wicket. Umar, a naturally aggressive batsman, tempered his game to milk the bowling and play second fiddle during the course of the partnership to give Pakistan a whiff of an opportunity. But he was run out backing up as Mitchell McCleneghan deflected a half-chance from Younis on to the stumps at the non-striker's end.

While the wicket galvanised New Zealand, it soon found itself under Afridi's wheel within the blink of an eye. The Pakistan captain smashed a robust 49 to reduce the chase to a canter even as Younus calmly brought up his 7th ODI century, in the process becoming the oldest Pakistani to do so.

Afridi smashed five fours and two sixes in his 25-ball 49 before Milne's pace did him in. An attempted carve over extra cover found a thin edge as Luke Ronchi gleefully accepted a simple catch with Pakistan needing 62 off 41 balls. With the chase resting on Younis's shoulders, Pakistan was alive and kicking courtesy spurts of brilliance from Sarfaraz Ahmed (18) till Vettori's guile accounted for Younus to tilt the scales in New Zealand's favour.

The base for New Zealand’s strong total was laid by Martin Guptill (58) and Dean Brownlie (42), who set the pace early on in an opening stand of 81 in 16.1 overs. Brownlie was the aggressor initially, hitting six boundaries and unsettling Pakistan’s new-ball duo of Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Irfan.

The momentum was then carried forward briefly by Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson, who made 26 and 23 respectively, but Pakistan’s seamers dealt blows every time a batsman got off to a start, leaving Williamson with the task of batting out the overs and taking the visitor close to the 300-run mark.

That he did, switching gears effortlessly after getting to his half-century in the 37th over. Unafraid to charge the spinners or back away to cut and pull the faster men, he was a symbol of concentration and determination. Along the way, he was also helped by some Pakistani generosity as the fielders added to the sloppiness.

New Zealand also benefitted from Tom Latham’s defiance towards the end. The left-hand batsman farmed strike superbly and scored just 14 in a 72-run stand for the fifth wicket off just 47 balls with Williamson that helped New Zealand smash 125 runs off the last 15 overs. In the overall context, their efforts in the death overs proved to be the difference between victory and defeat.

To review the Pakistan v New Zealand match in full, please click here.