BLACK CAPS' Shade Pakistan under African sun
NEW Zealand v Pakistan, ICC Knockout semi-final, Nairobi,
Article: Mathew Loh
INSPIRED by a rare performance of all-round quality from the entire XI, New Zealand turned Wasim Akram's dream of a sub-continental final into a nightmare with a famous four wicket victory over Pakistan at Nairobi's Gymkana ground yesterday.
Attending the picturesque ground with it's short boundaries and fast outfield the world's cricket media were almost unanimous in their predictions of a convincing Pakistan win.
Akram's talent laden team, said the likes of West Indian commentator and former test paceman Colin Croft, would hold too many guns and would simply blow the Black Caps away.
And when the elegant Saeed Anwar together with the mercurial youngster Imran Nazir opened the innings in stylish fashion knocking up a quick-fire 59 before Nazir fell to a sharp Craig Spearman catch off left-arm swing bowler Shayne O'Connor, the pundits predictions of an Pakistan innings of around 300 were looking increasingly accurate.
Yousuf Youhana entered the fray at first drop and his safety first approach proved a perfect foil for the strokeplay of Anwar and Pakistan were in a strong position when Nelson struck at 111 to have Youhana caught by Fleming off the gentle but probing bowling of Nathan Astle.
At 111-2 in the 24th over it was a crucial period of the game and New Zealand's much maligned but often match-winning medium pacers stepped up to turn the tide in the Black Caps favour.
Astle joined by Chris Harris and Scott Styris taunted and teased the opposition batsmen with their accurate line and length and soon the Pakistan patience cracked and they lost three wickets for little gain in six short but vital overs.
Struggling after the mini-collapse Pakistan were under more pressure when Anwar, 104, was caught behind by Adam Parore off Geoff Allot to make it 178-6 in the 37th over. With Anwar gone all hopes of a huge score were erased and Pakistan were all out for 252 with four balls to spare.
Given the conditions New Zealand were in prime position to capitalise but yet again the Black Caps top order stuttered and the Kiwis were facing an uphill battle at 15-2 in the 4th over.
However the fighting qualities of Astle and Roger Twose came to the fore and these two set up a New Zealand victory by knocking up innings' of 49 and 87 respectively.
When Twose was out caught Akram off the spin of Saqlain Mushtaq New Zealand were 169-4 and chasing hard to make the final. Enter Craig McMillan and the tough Cantabrian ensured victory with a superb cameo knock of 51 not out from just 56 balls.
It was appopriate to see the irrepresible McMillan hit the winning runs as his never-say-die approach epitomises the Kiwi attitude which has seen the Black Caps upset the favourites to secure a surprise berth in Sunday's final against either South African or India.