Following the one-sided affair on Thursday, there was little to separate the two sides tonight as Pakistan overcame a spirited New Zealand fightback to sweep the Twenty20s 2-0 at the Dubai Sports City. A half-century stand between Scott Styris and Brendon McCullum kept New Zealand in the hunt, but all along, Pakistan held a slight edge. New Zealand focussed on keeping wickets in hand, but unfortunately though, they left a little too much to do in the end as Pakistan sneaked home by seven runs and equalled the world record of seven consecutive Twenty20 wins with South Africa.
A clinical Pakistan maintained their perfect Twenty20 record against an injury-ravaged New Zealand by strolling to a 49-run victory. Imran Nazir smashed his first half-century in limited-overs since returning from the ICL and some swinging from the lower order pushed the target to a tough 162. The spin pair of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal had confounded New Zealand’s batsmen in the one-dayers, but the match was settled even before they came into the attack today.
Rejuvinated by his recent limited-overs form, Shahid Afridi has set his sights on helping Pakistan retain their World Twenty20 title in the third edition of the tournament, to be held in the Caribbean next April. Afridi was named Twenty20 captain after Younis Khan retired from the format after leading Pakistan to the World Twenty20 title in June and has continued to excel as a match-winning allrounder.
Afridi was instrumental in this summer’s triumph, turning in Man-of-the-Match performances in both the semi-final and the final. “I am becoming more and more responsible with my batting,” Afridi told AFP. “I want to help my team win the World Twenty20 again next year and then the bigger prize in the World Cup in two years time.
Who needs the captaincy when you are in this kind of form? Shahid Afridi’s supposed desire to lead Pakistan in ODIs and his rift with captain Younis Khan has dominated the chat in Pakistan since the Champions Trophy, and his all-round performance tonight to dismantle New Zealand - along with the captain’s duck - will do nothing to quell further talk. But why burden yourself with leadership hassles when you can turn in the kind of man-mountain performance Afridi did, first resuscitating Pakistan from a disastrous start with the bat and then nearly taking a hat-trick as his side romped home to a 138-run win at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Pakistan’s captain Younis Khan sought to put aside talk of revenge from their loss in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final to New Zealand, saying his team were focussing on their game.
“It’s not a revenge series but all the players have it in their minds to beat New Zealand,” he said. “In sport, there is no revenge but we will not forget that [Champions Trophy] loss. It’s not going to be easy beating New Zealand. They are a closely-knit team, they play as a unit and they did very well in the Champions Trophy.
Pakistan’s Test and ODI vice-captain Shahid Afridi has quashed rumours about an ongoing rift with captain Younis Khan, and believes Younis is the ideal man to lead the team.
“I am fed up of the thousand and one stories doing the rounds about me and Younis not getting along or me playing in the hands of a certain lobby, my lust for captaincy and the like,” he told Dawn, the Pakistan daily. “I take this opportunity to clarify once and for all that Younis and I go a long way as friends, almost 15 years, and are mature enough to discuss and sort out any problem under the sun in an amicable way.
Pakistan captain Younis Khan has said he is enjoying leading the side despite the semi-final loss in the ICC Champions Trophy and insisted it had not affected his own performance on the field.
“I’m enjoying cricket,” Younis said after reaching Karachi. “In fact all the boys are enjoying playing under my captaincy and that’s a good thing.”
Grant Elliott and Daniel Vettori guided an incredibly thin batting line-up, blighted by injuries, to a modest target which was made more difficult to achieve by the variety in Pakistan’s bowling attack. The New Zealand batsmen, who came out blazing at the start, made sure Pakistan never got back-to-back wickets, and the required run-rate never became too high for a well-timed batting Powerplay to redress. The five-wicket victory broke New Zealand’s semi-final hoodoo, both against Pakistan and in world events.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Start time 0930 (0730 GMT)
With so many intertwining fortunes, the penultimate Group A match between Pakistan and Australia is shaping as the most intriguing of the tournament. Pakistan’s victories over West Indies and India have ensured the World Twenty20 champions safe passage through to the semi-finals, and Australia will join them with victory in Centurion.
Pakistan tripped and stumbled and chased with the assurance of sleepwalkers, but ultimately a superior fast-bowling attack and depth in batting sealed them a low-scoring showdown. A fine bowling performance where wickets were shared all around ensured a woefully inexperienced West Indies were bowled out for an unthreatening 133 after they opted to bat. Pakistan’s batting has floundered repeatedly this year and today they nearly lost it, bewildered by Gavin Tonge’s four-wicket haul, before Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi added 58 to finish the deal.