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The Electronic Telegraph 1st Semi-Final: New Zealand v Pakistan
Michael Henderson - 16 June 1999

Stampede mars Pakistan delight

Pakistan (242-1) bt New Zealand (241-7) by nine wickets

Old Trafford has seen some remarkable sights in its time, and heard some raucous sounds, but it has never experienced anything as tumultuous as yesterday, when Pakistan secured their place in the World Cup final.

The din of whistles, hooters and firecrackers filled the soft summer night as Wasim Akram returned in glory to the ground he used to call home.

So long as the noise was merely an accompaniment to the cricket, then, however loud, it could be tolerated. Sadly, there was a crowd invasion by two dozen hot-heads when Pakistan were six runs short of victory, which led to a 10-minute delay. Then there was a significantly bigger one when Saeed Anwar clouted a straight boundary off Nathan Astle, and took two runs from the next ball.

Saeed, who had just completed his second successive hundred, was awarded two but, in fact, he did not even reach the other end. No sooner had he struck the ball than hundreds of spectators charged on and the security officers who had cleared the outfield an over before abandoned all hope of intercepting them.

It was a grotesque, indeed an unacceptable way for an international match to conclude, and it is a great relief that none of the New Zealand fielders was injured in what can only be called a stampede. If security arrangements are not tightened at Lord's, where the final takes place on Sunday, the competition could yet end with a serious disturbance.

The organisers have gone out of their way to encourage people to be involved in this World Cup, though they underestimate the zealous nature of some of these spectators. What Old Trafford saw, and implicitly tolerated, was lawlessness, and that does nobody any good.

It was not as if there was a great deal to get worked up about. Pakistan went after a target of 242 so confidently, losing only one wicket, that Saeed and Wajahatullah Wasti had drawn the sting from the game long before the end. The lovely left- hander ended with 113 not out, his 17th one-day hundred. Wasti, in only his seventh game, made 84.

Their batting ensured that it was not just a win; it was a skinning. From Pakistan's perspective it was a hardy response because, with the match half done, New Zealand imagined their score might suffice. Pakistan, challenged to make 228 on this pitch by India last week, had failed by 48 runs. Nobody quite spelled it out in so many words but they were seen as second-innings chokers.

On this day they were made of sterner stuff although, in truth, the bowling lacked distinction. The openers secured the bridgehead with an opening stand of 194, a competition record for the first wicket, and when Ijaz Ahmed came in, evidently with a train to catch, the only question unresolved was how many balls he needed to expedite the result. He took 28 from 21 in that clumping, bottom-handed style that serves him so well.

Once again Saeed was a joy to watch and, following his century against Zimbabwe at the Oval last Friday, it is fair to say his fallow period is over. He is now shoulder to shoulder with Desmond Haynes on 17 one-day hundreds, and there should be a few more before he puts his bat away. Only Sachin Tendulkar, the wonder of the age, with 22, is his master in the limited-overs game.

With Wasti a most watch able ally, particularly when he was driving through cover, Saeed pushed the stand beyond the 186 that Gary Kirsten and Andrew Hudson made against Holland in Rawalpindi three years ago. It is no slight on the Dutch to say that the Pakistanis made their runs on a bigger occasion against better opponents.

The New Zealand innings was remarkable for the searing pace of 'Jolly Jack Tar', Shoaib Akhtar, the Rawalpindi Express, who refuses to hold anything back. He hit the stumps three times, and consistently topped 90 mph. He really is a thrilling sight. Come Sunday, even the old boys who loll in high chairs in the Long Room might keep their eyes on him.

On another day the diligent batting of Roger Twose and Stephen Fleming might have been rewarded. Chris Cairns also played sensibly towards the end. But Pakistan were inspired, and when they are in this mood they, like their supporters, are hard to contain.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk