Tactically, New Zealand was brilliant at the Wanderers on Saturday night. At the heart of it all was planning and execution.
When skipper Daniel Vettori joined Grant Elliott, the match was delicately poised at 126 for four in the 30th over. By promoting himself, the New Zealand captain ensured a right-left combination was in the middle. The Pakistani bowlers were forced to switch their line constantly.
The timing of the batting Power Play - it was taken in the 43rd over with the score at 175 for four - was spot on. This was the decisive phase of the contest with Vettori and Elliott launching into the bowling.
Captain Vettori - courageous and strategically flexible - was adjudged Man of the Match.
The 104-run stand for the fifth wicket between Elliott (75 not out, 103b, 5x4, 1x6) and the left-handed Vettori (41, 42b, 3x4) in 108 balls guided New Zealand to a five-wicket victory over Pakistan in the second semifinal of the ICC Champions Trophy. As many as 13 deliveries remained in the contest.
The chase of 234 was managed nervelessly manner by Elliott and Vettori. The duo consolidated and left Pakistan behind in the home stretch. Vettori was a calming influence.
Pakistan and skipper Younus Khan would look back ruefully at the dropped catch when Elliott was on 42. The batsman scooped up a catch off left-arm paceman Mohammed Aamer and Younus put down a sitter at short cover.
The Kiwis required 66 off the final 10 overs. In the Power Play overs, Vettori whipped off-spinner Saeed Ajmal past the mid-wicket fence. He then smashed left-arm paceman Mohammed Aamer down the ground.
New Zealand required 28 off the last five. Elliott pounded Gul to the cover fence. He then moved across to whip the paceman through mid-wicket. The next ball landed in the stands beyond mid-wicket.
Vettori was stumped off Ajmal in the final moments but the contest had been decided by then.
Elliott, braving a thumb injury, cut and pulled with power and precision. The man's got character.
Earlier, leg-spinner Shahid Afridi struck a major blow for Pakistan when he castled the fluent Ross Taylor with a delicious piece of trickery. The Kiwi attempted to cut the ball - delivered from back-of-the-hand with the spin. The delivery held its line as it zipped off the wicket.
Vettori joined Elliott and there was a change in the script. The no-balls and wides did not help Pakistan's cause.
New Zealand had got off to a sparkling start. Brendon McCullum swung into action, pulling the second delivery of the innings - from Aamer - for the maximum. When Rana Naved strayed in length and direction, he was swung past the ropes by McCullum.
Blatant aggression can be a double-edged sword though. McCullum lashed out at a fuller delivery outside off-stump and Afridi moved back to hold a pressure catch at deep cover.
The Kiwis, jolted early, were scoring briskly never-the-less. Importantly, the asking rate was kept within manageable proportions.
Aaron Redmond and Martin Guptill maintained the tempo. Gul ended Guptill's brief tenure when the batsman miscued a pull. New Zealand was 44 for two at the conclusion of the first batch of 10 Power Play overs.
Pakistan took the bowling Power Play straightaway. The Kiwis were 64 for two after15 overs. Taylor and Redmond looked good. Taylor, his feet moving well, smacked Aamer past covers. Redmond forced Aamer through the off-side field and slashed Gul when the paceman gave width.
Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal broke the promising association. Redmond (31, 55b, 5x4), deceived in the air, popped up a return catch that was gleefully accepted.
Ajmal was spinning the ball sharply into the right-hander on occasions. He mixed his stock delivery with the odd doosra and changed his length cleverly.
However, Ajmal and Pakistan ran into a road-block in the form of Elliott and Vettori.
Pakistan recovers after sluggish start
Pakistan's fighting last wicket pair provided the final twist to an innings of fortune swings as New Zealand was set a target of 234 at the Wanderers on Saturday.
The often brave and largely entertaining unbeaten partnership of 35 in 34 balls between Mohammed Aamer and Saeed Ajmal took Pakistan to 233 for nine in the second semifinal of the ICC Champions Trophy.
Aamer created room to smash Shane Bond through the off-side field and pulled the Kiwi spearhead as the Pakistani supporters roared. Ajmal was cheeky on the leg-side, even paddle sweeping paceman Kyle Mills to the fence.
These were crucial runs after Pakistan had delayed taking its batting Power Play until the 45th over.
Earlier, a fine blend of experience and youth revived Pakistan's hopes before New Zealand struck back.
The Kiwis had made serious inroads - Pakistan was 86 for four in the 21st over - when Mohammad Yousuf and Umar Akmal joined hands.
Before Yousuf (45, 78b, 3x4) played on to Mills, attempting a steer, the fifth-wicket partnership hadadded 80 crucial runs.
Soon, the enterprising Umar (55, 62b, 7x4) – venturing into a paddle sweep - was adjudged leg-before to left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori. Replays showed the ball had hit the pad off the willow.
Not much later, the big-hitting Shahid Afridi, trying a dab shot to a delivery outside off-stump, nicked seamer Ian Butler to 'keeper Brendon McCullum. New Zealand was in the game again.
The Kiwis sliced through the tail before running into a road-block in the form of Aamer and Ajmal.
Earlier, the talented Umar showed admirable temperament in a stressful situation. He used the crease capably against Vettori. The youngster cashed in on the slightest room and width, dismissing the ball inthe arc between point and cover.
And Younus was all elegance as he launched into a cover-drive off left-arm paceman James Franklin. When Bond gave him width, the crafty batsman harnessed the pace to send the ball to the third man fence.
Gradually, Pakistan picked up the pieces. The senior Yousuf held firm at one end, providing space for Umar to blossom at the other.
Run-making was not easy though. The Kiwis bowlers were disciplined and the fielding was sharp.
Pakistan had opted to bat; Younus Khan possibly wanted to avoid the pressures of chasing; there was also a threat of rain in the evening.
The pitch did not offer the pacemen as much off the seam as in the earlier games. There was pace and bounce but no appreciable deviation for the quicker bowlers.
Imran Nazir was off like a run-away train with his hand-eye coordination and bat-speed. The track suited someone like Nazir; the ball was coming on to the bat.
The intrepid opener thumped Mills off the back-foot in the opening over to set the ball rolling for Pakistan.
Bond was immaculate from the other end. He worked up pace, kept the ball around the off-stump with subtle changes in length and moved the odd delivery away.
Nazir kept finding boundaries even if he walked the tightrope. Mills was struck over mid-off, and Ian Butler was pulled and cover-driven for three fours in his first over.
But then, Nazir could not consolidate. Bond's short-pitched delivery climbed wickedly into Nazir and the batsman could do no more than fend into the hands of Ross Taylor at slip.
Pakistan was 46 for one after the first ten Power Play overs. Gradually Kamran Akmal opened out, pulling Butler past the ropes and stroking Bond square on the off-side.
Butler, however, settled down into a much better off-stump line. The lanky Kiwi has a high-arm action and his wrist position was good as he hit the deck. In the Kiwi attack, he was the pick.
The paceman consumed Shoaib Malik with a short-of-a-good-length delivery that moved just a shade. Malik's tendency to hang his bat out without moving across saw him edging to a diving Taylor at frst slip.
There was a turn-around in the contest. When Butler sent down a fuller length ball, a well-set Kamran, venturing into a lofted drive, succeeded in finding the lone fielder at sweeper cover; Aaron Redmond held a well-judged catch.
Skipper Vettori added to the pressure with his immaculate left-arm spin. There was revolution on the ball and hitting against the spin was a hazardous proposition. The Kiwi captain soon took out his opposite number.
Younus was done in by the extra bounce as he pushed forward to a Vettori delivery on the off-stump. The ball looped into short cover's hands. The Pakistan innings was in a mess before Yousuf and Umar came together.