IPL: Indian Premier League 2009

Bond, O’Brien outdo Umar’s heroics


obrienUmar Akmal was seven years old when Shane Bond made his first-class debut. Twelve years later they met - Bond returning to Test cricket after a two-year exile, and Umar making his debut - and tried their darnedest to take their respective sides to a win in one of the Tests of the year. In the end, the 34-year-old ended the 19-year-old’s dream, setting up New Zealand’s first win in more than a year.

With Pakistan chasing 251, Umar came in to bat at 24 for 3, and totally belied a man making his debut. Having already scored a counterattacking century in the first innings, he stood between Pakistan and defeat for close to two sessions before Bond came up with one last desperate piece of brilliance. Walking back with 56 runs still required, Umar couldn’t belie a broken heart.

Thanks to Umar’s 75, Pakistan started the final session needing 86 runs with five wickets in hand and both the Akmals in the middle. Kamran knocked off three quick boundaries and it started to look like an easy home stretch before Bond and Iain O’Brien, reversing the ball appreciably, dried up the runs. In a nine-over spell, Bond kept taking the ball away from the batsmen, agonsingly beating them outside off. In the sixth over of that spell, he brought one in, one of the few that came in, and latched onto his second caught-and-bowled of the match.

O’Brien, playing almost for his place in the side and enduring an ordinary Test, had an equal part to play in that turnaround. He followed up Umar’s wicket with Kamran’s, with a sharp in-ducker, and Umar Gul’s. Three wickets had fallen for eight runs, and Pakistan still needed 48 runs and there were 24 overs to survive.

The last two wickets fought grimly for nine overs, but it was too high a mountain for them to climb in face of smart bowling from Daniel Vettori, O’Brien and Chris Martin. It was Martin who had started New Zealand’s first comeback, in the middle session. Umar and Mohammad Yousuf had serenely added 71 for the fourth wicket, Shane Bond’s second spell had been seen off without trouble, and New Zealand were on the defensive, waiting for mistakes. Then Martin bowled a ripper out of nowhere. From back of a length, this one kicked up and jagged in towards Yousuf, who did everything right - took the head out of the way, dropped the wrists, but the ball tailed in and kissed the glove.

By then, Umar had reached 40 and was playing a completely different innings from his first. This 75 was no runaway blitz; here was a man who seemed to have grown years in age over the last two days. In the first innings, he didn’t have time to contemplate the consequences. This time around, Vettori gave him all the time in the world to think. Evidently smarting from the first innings, Vettori looked to play on the kid’s patience and temperament. There was a deep point in place soon as he walked out. The support seamers bowled length and didn’t go looking desperately for wickets. When Vettori brought himself on just before lunch, he bowled with five men on the boundary, just giving away a free single.

Umar didn’t looked fazed by this ploy to dry up the boundaries. By lunch, quietly but surely he moved to 15 off 62 balls. Bond came back post lunch for another dig. For the first time Umar was challenged to go for the pull, the shot that scarred all the three seamers in the first innings. This time he weighed in the situation, and started ducking into them. Bond couldn’t find the pace of the first innings, and Umar just waited for him to finish his spell, by which time both batsmen had sauntered into their 40s.

There was brief drama between Yousuf’s wicket and Umar’s. An uneasy partnership between Umar and Shoaib Malik kept the game on the edge. Malik scratched around for six runs, but by then Umar had become the ninth batsmen to score a century and a fifty in his debut Test. Vettori looked innocuous at that time, and went to Grant Elliott.

Elliott came within one clean grab of being a truly inspirational bowling change. In his first over, he dropped an easy offering from Malik, after which a floodgate opened. Malik drove handsomely and guided purposefully through the third-man area. Vettori came back and started bowling over the wicket to Umar. Forty-three runs came in the next 8.5 overs before O’Brien produced a lifter that followed Malik in and took an edge, in the last over before tea.

The hard work that new Zealand had to put in for the last seven wickets was in complete contrast to how easily the first five wickets fell in the morning session and made way for the business part of the match. Gul took out the last two New Zealanders for just six runs. And Khurram Manzoor, Imran Farhat and Fawad Alam showed they were too lose to compose the top order of a Test side.
Source:Cricket News

Image Source: Cricinfo

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