Semi-final, Pakistan v New Zealand, 16 June 1999Trevor Chesterfield
Pakistan tigers set to roar
MANCHESTER (England) - There is a large portrait outside Old Trafford of Paul Allott instead of Pakistan's vaunted Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akthar, which the sort of back-handed tribute to New Zealand qualifying for the World Cup semi-final against Pakistan today.
If you look close enough at the hastily paste over picture you catch the glimpse of Sachin Tendulkar, whom the marketing machine had left up after the two Asian sub-continental giants met at the same venue a week ago. No doubt they thought the two would meet again.
They have a special affinity for India and Pakistan in this part of the British Isles. That other 'Old Trafford' down the road holds little to no interest for the likes of an Asian, who since England had their invitation torn up, are now eager to support 'their own kind' against the Kiwis. Yet Allott, with a World Cup record of 20 wickets, is seen as big a danger to Pakistan as he has been to other sides.
Other New Zealand players may bid for attention, but the personable Kiwi fast bowler has emerged, with Neil Johnson, as one of the unlikely candidates for a place in the World Cup '99 XI alongside such as Mark and Steve Waugh, Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq.
There are those who feel the Kiwis, at 10/1 long shots, have pulled a fast one and their 'true colours' are about to emerge. Even South Africa have grudgingly admitted that if you wanted a 'dark horse' favourite to reach the last four if not the final, no one could afford to write off the Kiwis.
They have a special talent of doing the right things at the right time and scripting their game plan accordingly. Their skipper Stephen Fleming is as open minded as any of the captains and admitted, at Southampton after the crushing defeat by the West Indies, 'We need to switch our targets and change out strategies.'
They kayoed the Windies through such a bizarre set of circumstances that you could almost hear Brian Lara accusing the trans-Tasman cousins of certain collusion; yet Australia desperately needed the Windies to qualify. The two points would have meant a big difference to their Super Six cause. Not so the Kiwis who beat them in that turn -up at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff. That was the day when New Zealand realised they had a chance to go all the way. Since that match Roger Twose has moved on, scoring the winning runs against India at Trent Bridge on Saturday under similar challenging circumstances.
All the while Pakistan have been doing their own thing; erratic geniuses who have emerged as favourites despite losing to South Africa and led by a man whose own touch of brilliance has to be admired: whatever many think of Imran Khan, the talent and captaincy of Wasim Akram is a man who has done more than Imran. Wasim has reignited the fight in the tigers.
They arrived full of their usual growl and have been found wanting a couple of times: defeats to South Africa and then India were hard to swallow. The first was blamed on Wasim's diabetic problem, the second on Pakistan's bothersome middle-order.
This classical west against east clash has the ingredients to cause an
upset but in knock-out situations anything can and is likely to
happen, although the paper tigers look to have the sharper power then
the flightless kiwis.