Pakistan v New Zealand: Panache meets purpose

Saturday, September 22, 2007

CAPE TOWN: This is a clash of Pakistan flair verses Kiwi functionality. Although New Zealand have again more than held their own, they owe their passage to the semi-finals on India, after their 37-run win against South Africa dumped the home side out on net run-rate and allowed Daniel Vettori’s side to sneak in.

“I didn’t actually watch any of it,”
said Vettori.
“I was trying to avoid it as much as possible because we knew what it was going to be like. In the end it was a little bit tense and there was relief from the guys.”

Pakistan have reached the last four playing their typically blend of aggressive cricket, despite a stuttering display against Bangladesh, under the guidance of their new coach Geoff Lawson. Some of the permutations for the final are mouth-watering; a Trans-Tasman clash, a replay of the 1999 World Cup final or, the ultimate match-up, an India-Pakistan showdown.

Bat play: Pakistan’s top order has failed to fire in the tournament; their first four matches brought scores of 50 for 3, 47 for 4, 33 for 3 and 46 for 4 before the middle order led recoveries. Their best start came against Bangladesh went Shahid Afridi was finally promoted to open, but Shoaib Malik was keeping his cards close to his chest over Pakistan’s plans. Salman Butt has laboured in every innings and his strike-rate is down at a paltry 70.

New Zealand haven’t been blessed with a mountain of runs from the top four and their best start - 68 without loss - ended in defeat against South Africa. Craig McMillan has been their saviour with 44 off 23 against India and 57 off 31 against England. Scott Styris (52 runs) and Lou Vincent (89 runs) have both struggled and their scoring rates have only crept above a run-a-ball.

Wrecking ball: The leading wicket-takers for both teams are spinners, Vettori and Afridi. Vettori is pushing to be bowler of the tournament after conceding a miserly 5.30 and should be a handful on a worn Newlands surface. However, he wasn’t making any early decisions on his team.
“We saw Australia run through Sri Lanka with pace.”
Jacob Oram hasn’t enjoyed Twenty20 with the ball, taking one wicket and going at nearly 11-an-over. Pakistan’s attack is packed with variety. Afridi has bagged the wickets, but Sohail Tanvir has come from nowhere to create problems with the new-ball alongside Mohammad Asif. Umar Gul’s yorkers, held back until the closing overs, have meant that opposition have struggled to accelerate late in their innings.

Keep your eye on: The brewery. If Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq (holder of the longest six in the tournament) or Oram get hold of a ball deep midwicket will need to be standing on the other side of the railway line.

Shop talk: Although chasing has been the preferred route, Malik doesn’t think it’s the only way to go.
“If you have a strong bowling line-up up can bat first and put pressure on the other side,”
he said.

Vettori believes it would have been harsh for New Zealand to miss out on the semi-finals.
“Sometimes we have scraped through, but this time I think we deserved it but luckily enough for us it worked out well. We make a lot of them [semi-finals] now it’s about kicking on.”

Pitching it right:
“It looks good,”
said Malik after inspecting the surface.
“But the outfield is heavy so 165-170 should be a good total.”
The sunshine of recent days is also expected to be replaced by a touch more cloud cover, offering more assistance for the bowlers.

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Will Pakistan Premier League gain success just like Indian Premier League ?