Pakistan recovers after early setback

STRIKING THE RIGHT NOTE: Umar Akmal came up with a timely knock to rescue Pakistan from a precarious position.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: AFP

S. Dinakar

New Zealand makes inroads before Younus, Umar Akmal come together

Pakistan had made 233 for nine at the end of 50 overs

Johannesburg: A fine blend of experience and youth revived Pakistan’s hopes before New Zealand struck back at the Wanderers on Saturday.

Pakistan was 183 for seven in the 42nd over of the second ICC Champions Trophy semifinal. The match was in the balance.

The Kiwis had made serious inroads — Pakistan was 86 for four in the 21st over — when Mohammad Yousuf and Umar Akmal joined hands.

Crucial partnership

Before Yousuf (45, 78b, 3x4) played on to paceman Kyle Mills, attempting a steer to third-man, the fifth-wicket partnership had added 80 crucial runs off 110 deliveries.

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.

Earlier, the talented Umar showed admirable temperament in a stressful situation. He used the crease capably against Vettori during a critical phase of the innings. The youngster is quick of mind and feet and cashed in on the slightest room and width, dismissing the ball in the arc between point and cover.

When Shane Bond returned for his second spell, Umar glided the paceman to the third-man fence.

Earlier, Younus was elegance personifed 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 Kiwi bowlers were disciplined and the fielding sharp.

Pakistan had opted to bat; Younus Khan possibly wanted to avoid the pressures of chasing and there was a threat of rain in the evening as well.

It was apparent that the pitch did not offer the pacemen as much off the seam as in the earlier games. There was pace and bounce but no alarming deviation for the quicker bowlers.

Imran Nazir was off like a run-away train. His hand-eye coordination and bat-speed were on display again. 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.

Spearhead Shane 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.

Walking the tightrope

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.

The normally aggressive Kamran Akmal played second fiddle at the other end. Pakistan had begun well.

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 first slip.

Pakistan was 46 for one after the first 10 Power Play overs.

Gradually Kamran 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 Butler has a high-arm action and his wrist position was good as he hit the deck.

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.

Piling on the pressure

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.