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The Barbados Nation 1st Semi-Final: New Zealand v Pakistan
The Barbados Nation - 16 June 1999

Pakistan cruise home

It was more Karachi than Manchester or, more to the point, Auckland or Wellington, and Pakistan turned a virtual home match into a resounding triumph over New Zealand in the first World Cup semifinal at Old Trafford yesterday.

Their victory carries them into Sunday's final at Lord's against the winners of today's other semi between Australia and South Africa.

It was by nine wickets with 2-1/2 overs to spare but, in effect, it was even more comfortable than that.

It was inspired principally by the electrifying speed and control of Shoaib Ahktar whose three timely wickets, and mere menacing presence, were responsible for restricting New Zealand to a modest 241 for seven from their 50 overs.

Captain Stephen Fleming stated later that it was a total ``we would have settled for at the start of the day''.

He did not take into account the fact that, in their two completed Super Sixes matches, South Africa and India had comfortably scored more and that Pakistan amassed 269 for nine against them in the first round.

The limitations of their bowling in such conditions were exposed by left-hander Saeed Anwar and his most recent opening partner Wajahatullah Wasti.

They effectively settled the result with a new World Cup record first-wicket partnership of 194 (bettering the 186 by Gary Kirsten and Alan Hudson for South Africa against Holland in 1996) after which Ijaz Ahmed put on the finishing touches.

Wasti, in only his third One-Day International, made 84 off 123 balls with 10 fours and a six with confident, straight-batted correctness.

Anwar, in his 172nd, remained unbeaten 113 (148 balls, nine fours), his 17th in such matches and his second in succession in this World Cup following his 103 against Zimbabwe last week.

Yet Richie Benaud, the former Australian captain and now noted television pundit, chose Shoaib as his Man-Of-The-Match although 55 off his 10 overs made him the most expensive Pakistani.

The decision was not a surprise, for no one made more of an impact than the contemporary game's fastest and most exciting bowler.

Captain Wasim Akram, along with Ijaz, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Moin Khan, one of four survivors from Pakistan's only previous Cup-winning team of 1992, said afterwards he had sensed such a performance.

``The body language of the whole team was positive from the start,'' he said.

It was no wonder. The sun shone from a clear blue sky throughout the hottest day of the tournament, the pitch was as hard and as dry as those that abound in the sub-continent and the stands, packed to their 20 000 capacity, were a canvas of green and white and a cacophony of horns and whistles from the majority Pakistani support.

And, for Wasim himself, a Lancashire player for several years, Old Trafford is familiar territory.

Midway through the game and at the end rockets and fire-crackers shot into the air, a common occurrence on Pakistani Test ground but certainly not on England's.

For New Zealand, with hardly a flag-waving supporter in sight, the chilly, overcast weather and the slow, seaming pitches that prevailed in the first rounds would have been like home.

Here, their batsmen could not resist Shaoib's thunderbolts and the penetration of his support staff, and their own nagging medium-pacers could get nothing out of the pitch after the left-arm Geoff Allott did not snare his usual an early wicket or two.

Pakistan's main worry entering Sunday's final remains their concession of wides, of which there were 17, and no-balls, 12, among 47 extras.

It is a handicap they could not expect to get away with against Australia or South Africa.

Shoaib took 2.3 overs to make his first strike. But from the start his pace, consistently clocked at between 90 and 93 mph, and bounce shattered the New Zealand openers Matthew Horne and Nathan Astle.

Twice Horne fended lifters off his chest through the vacant third slip. One ball flew over wicket-keeper Moin Khan, 25 yards back, for byes.

Soon Astle was as late on his downstroke as the City by-pass bus and his leg-stump was knocked out.

Astle has failed throughout the campaign and so has Craig McMillan, who struggled for 19 balls for three. He then edged a catch to the 'keeper off Akram.

Horne overcame his early ordeal against Shaoib to bat with increasing assurance. But Shoaib is not the only Pakistani who specialises in pinpoint yorkers and, at 58 for three in the 16th over, Abdul Razzaq zeroed in on his toes to hit middle stump.

New Zealand were slowly but surely seen out of their crisis by their two reliable left-handers, skipper Fleming and their leading scorer, Roger Twose, in a partnership of 94 in 18.4 overs when Akram summoned Shaoib.

Fleming took two successive boundaries off him in his second over and moved to 41. But the Pakistani responded as the great fast bowlers do.

His yorker, fired in from round the wicket, passed under Fleming's bat on its panicked downswing and plucked out the leg-stump.

It also took a special piece of cricket to shift the durable Twose. He had pushed, deflected and cut for 46 off 83 balls when his slash off Razzaq was brilliantly caught by Ijaz leaping far to his right at backward point.

New Zealand bat a long way down and the all-rounders Chris Cairns, who finished unbeaten 44, and Chris Harris, were threatening a late surge when Shoaib came back for his last spell.

In his first over, he produced another trick out of his bag, a change of pace from 90 to 75 mph that dumbfounded, and bowled, the left-handed Harris.

Adam Parore followed without scoring, but Cairns kept his head, finishing unbeaten 44 as he and Dion Nash ended with a flourish, spoiling Shaoib's figures by taking 12 off his last over.

It was quickly obvious that New Zealand's total was inadequate.

Allott could make no impression in his first burst of five overs, the others were steady but nothing else, and the runs flowed with no alarms.

Both Anwar and Wasti had hundreds at their beckoning. Wasti wasted his opportunity, swiping a skied catch to mid-off at 84 (123 balls, a six and ten fours).

Anwar has outlived the cockiness of youth and was not so reckless, remaining past his hundred and hitting the winning runs.

He will be hard to dislodge on Sunday, whether it is by Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and that lot, or by Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and their colleagues.

And confident Pakistan will be too.

Source: The Barbados Nation
Editorial comments can be sent to The Barbados Nation at nationnews@sunbeach.net