Cricket

Taylor makes unbeaten 86 as Afridi cuts through New Zealand


Innings New Zealand 209 for 9 (Taylor 86*, Afridi 4-38, Hasan 2-59) v Pakistan

A disciplined Pakistan bowling performance gave them a fantastic chance of finally snapping a 12-match losing streak against New Zealand. Shaheen Afridi at both top and tail of the innings was the pick of the bunch, but it was a team effort that kept New Zealand to 209.. Ross Taylor was again the glue through the middle overs for the visitors unbeaten on 86 by the end. But unlike the game on Wednesday, he had no partner that stuck with him through the innings. As a consequence, New Zealand fell behind the asking rate in the middle overs, and the constant fall of wickets meant they were poorly positioned for a big finish, particularly as Pakistan kept tighter lines in the final overs than they had in the first game.

Runs from the top order were again hard to come by, as Munro couldn’t convert a bright start into a more substantial innings, but the real killer blow came with the dismissal of Kane Williamson. George Worker drove Afridi back down the ground, and the lanky teenager stooped low enough to get a finger on the ball. Williamson was stranded hopelessly far down the crease, and could only watch in despair as the ball hit the stumps at the bowler’s end. It could not have been more unfortunate, and from New Zealand’s perspective, it was the worst possible man for that misfortune to befall.

Worker produced, well, a workmanlike innings to give Taylor some company, but just as he began to establish himself and the partnership approached 50, Taylor’s recent bete noire Mohammad Hafeez came into the attack and bowled him. Next over, Afridi, who had a fantastic day in the field, bowled Tom Latham with a searing yorker that any batsman would have struggled to keep out. That was the dismissal that changed the trajectory of the innings, as New Zealand found themselves deprived of a quick scorer who would serve as the ideal foil for Taylor.

Even when Afridi was called upon to return in the death overs, he was positively measly in his lines and lengths. The full delivery was accurate enough to make it impossible to get under, and the number of variations, and the maturity to understand when to use them, was superb. When Hasan Ali, last year’s star in the final overs, was smashed by Ish Sodhi for the innings most expensive over, Afridi returned to befuddle him all over, with a slower ball that took middle stump with it putting him out of his misery. It was a shame not to see him bowl out his full quota, and in the process deny him a five-for he was arguably odds on for; he finished with 4 for 38 in nine.

Nicholls and Taylor had rebuilt through the middle overs, but not with the lively urgency of Latham in the previous game. Their partnership of 75 was vital in ensuring the visitors weren’t bowled out, but it came in 21 overs, removing any chance of the 250-plus score they would have been comfortable with at the dinner break. Shadab Khan was exceptionally tight in his line, by far the most economical of the bowlers, conceding only 25 in his full quota. Hafeez provided accurate support alongside him, and this time, Taylor opted to focus on the task at hand rather than the degrees the bowler’s elbow as bending.

Taylor could find neither enough of the strike nor the timing at the end for a finish quite as sparkling this time around, but 32 off the last four did take them past 200. With Pakistan’s chasing record in the UAE unflattering and their recent head-to-head against New Zealand even more so, the game was still very much on.



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