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New Zealand storm into semis

By Harish Kotian in Mohali
Last updated on: October 26, 2006 00:23 IST
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New Zealand registered a comprehensive 51-run victory over Pakistan in a Group B match to qualify for the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy, at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium, in Mohali, on Wednesday.

Fast bowler Shane Bond claimed three wickets for 45 runs as New Zealand became the first team to enter the last four stage of the tournament.

In Stephen Fleming's record 194th match as captain, the Kiwis rallied brilliantly after the loss of a few early wickets to post a healthy 274 for 4 in their 50 overs and then bowled out Pakistan for 223 in 46.3 overs.

Scott Styris and Stephen Fleming scored brilliant half-centuries to lead New Zealand's recovery after they were reduced to 60 for 3 in the 15th over.

Styris top-scored with a splendid innings of 86, while Fleming led from the front with a classy knock of 80. The duo added 108 runs for the fourth wicket before Jacob Oram (31 from 26 balls) and Brendon McCullum (27 from 13 balls) made a late charge in the final overs.

For Pakistan, Mohammad Yousuf kept his team in the fight with a well-paced innings of 71. Shoaib Malik was the other major contributor with 52, but the rest of the team failed to stand up to the challenge.

New Zealand's victory also meant that Sri Lanka are knocked out of the tournament.

Pakistan take on South Africa at the same venue on Friday in a virtual quarter-final match to decide the second semi-finalist from Group B.

New Zealand innings:

Pakistan's decision to bowl first paid instant dividends as they struck as early as the second over of the innings. Lou Vincent played all over to an incoming delivery from Umar Gul and was bowled for 3.

Nathan Astle hit a few boundaries for his 15 before offering Younis Khan a comfortable catch in the slips off Naved-ul-Hasan. New Zealand were reduced for 23 for 2 after seven overs.

Fleming's first boundary came in the eighth over, as he lazily pulled Gul over midwicket. His top-edged six off Naved-ul Hasan in the ninth over hit a spectator smack on the head just below the press box.

Peter Fulton fell leg before wicket to pacer Iftikhar Anjum for 7 in the 15th over. A closer look at the replays suggested that the ball could have missed the leg stump.

He could consider himself a bit unlucky after watching Scott Styris not being giving leg before wicket to a closer appeal off Abdul Razzaq in the 20th over.

The Kiwi all-rounder got another chance on 16, when wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal messed up an easy run-out opportunity in 24th over. Akmal just had to take one step and whip off the bails as the batsman had given up his bid to reach the crease. But the keeper chose to throw from arm's length and missed the stumps to the horror of his team mates.

Fleming, captaining New Zealand for a record 194th one-day international, batted with great sense of responsibility and maturity. He brought up his half-century in style -- a magnificent cover drive off Razzaq in the 28th over.

Styris grew in confidence after the shaky start and looked to increase the tempo along with Fleming after the 30-over mark. The duo brought up their 100-run partnership for the fourth wicket in the 36th over as New Zealand started inching towards a big total.

Styris reached his half-century, his first against Pakistan, in 79 balls, including six boundaries, in the 37th over.

In the course of his innings, Fleming broke another record when his reached 76. He surpassed Arjuna Ranatunga and created a new record of scoring most runs as captain in ODI history. He surpassed Ranatunga's tally of 5606 runs, having earlier broken his record for captaining a side in most number of one-dayers.

Fleming, however, did not last long after that. He was caught and bowled by Shoaib Malik after a fantastic innings of 80. His 105-ball knock contained eight boundaries and a six, adding 108 runs for the fourth wicket with Styris.

New Zealand were reduced to 168 for 4 in the 38th over and it remained to be seen whether the lower middle order could continue the good work and take them past the 250-run mark.

For Pakistan, it was a good opportunity to claw back into the match with some quick wickets.

The recurrence of a back strain forced Styris to bat with a runner around the 40th over mark. But his shot-making was still intact as he started to take toll on the bowling in the final overs.

Jacob Oram provided the momentum with a few big hits towards the end. He raced to 31 off 26 balls, inclusive of four boundaries and a six, before falling to Razzaq in the 46th over.

Styris continued to pound the boundaries before being caught off Gul's bowling for a well-made 86. He hit 10 boundaries in 113 balls and never let the back strain affect his batting till he perished.

How much wicketkeeper Akmal might be regretting having missed that easy run-out chance off Styris, when he was on 16. Without doubt, they were made to pay dearly.

Brendon McCullum hit some powerful blows in the end overs to take New Zealand to 274 for 7 in their 50 overs.

He scored 27 from 13 balls, inclusive of with three boundaries and a six, before he was caught by Malik off Razzaq. New Zealand did the most damage in the final 10 overs, scoring 99 runs off them.

Gul was the most successful bowler for Pakistan, claiming 2 for 47 in his 9 overs. Razzaq started well, but was taken apart in his second spell and finished with 2 for 60 in his 10 overs.

Pakistan must be feeling that they just let the Kiwis off the hook after a good start. But a target of 275 should not prove a difficult task for a talented batting side like Pakistan.

The pitch looks good for batting and we should witness a close match, unless Pakistan mess up at the start of their innings. It would be interesting to see if the chemical spray helps in reducing the dew and whether the pitch holds good throughout the Pakistan innings.

Pakistan innings:

New Zealand opening bowlers Shane Bond and Kyle Mills got a lot of help from the wicket and moved the ball a great deal. Pakistan found it hard to get going in the early overs as the ball beat the edge repeatedly.

Imran Farhat (6) looked to break the shackles, but offered the third man fielder a simple catch. He tried to cut Bond, but the extra pace and bounce took the top edge straight to Mills at third man.

The wicket was much-needed confidence-booster for Bond, who is yet to strike top form since returning to international cricket in this tournament after around six months due to injury.

Mohammad Hafeez played positively, making sure that Pakistan did not fall behind in the run-rate at this early stage.

However, disaster struck from the other end when Younis Khan fell after scoring just 2. He hit a short delivery from Mills straight to Lou Vincent at backward point as Pakistan slipped to 45 for 2 in the 9th over.

Hafeez, meanwhile, looked unfazed at the other end, hitting boundaries regularly. But to Pakistan's misfortune, he fell, caught behind to Oram for 43 in the 13th over.

It prompted Pakistan to promote Shahid Afridi in the batting order. Could he launch a counter attack? No. The move failed. The right-hander was caught at short fine leg off Oram for 4 as he tried to clear the boundary on the leg side in the 17th over.

Pakistan found themselves in trouble at 83 for 4, and the onus now rested on Mohammad Yousuf to guide the rest of the batsmen.

The bounce that the Kiwi pacers were deriving from the pitch was proving difficult to negotiate. They Pakistanis were scoring at a quick rate, but then they were also losing wickets regularly.

Yousuf and Shoaib Malik set about repairing the damage with some steady batting in the middle overs. They dealt mainly in singles and twos, while despatching the rare loose delivery as Pakistan progressed at a steady rate.

Yousuf looked solid as ever as he coasted to his half-century from 66 balls, inclusive of seven boundaries, in the 31st over. But just when it looked that he was set for a big score, he perished to a rather tame dismissal. He was caught in the covers off Bond for 71 after a two-hour vigil at the crease, spanning 92 balls, including nine sweetly-struck boundaries. He added 94 runs for the fifth wicket with Malik to prop Pakistan in the middle overs.

Pakistan slipped to 177 for 5 in the 37th over, needing another 98 runs with five wickets in hand.

Bond, who struggled in his first two spells, came back strongly to tilt the match in New Zealand's favour. Not only did he get the all-important wicket of Yousuf, but also dried up the runs.

Malik struggled to find the boundary and the required run-rate kept creeping up steadily. Abdul Razzaq failed to repeat his heroics of the previous match against Sri Lanka and fell to Bond for just 6.

It was Bond who had done the trick with the ball for the Kiwis. His last spell read 4-0-8-2 and, by a long way, proved the death-blow for Pakistan.

Malik scored 52, before he was caught by Astle off Vettori while trying to loft over the cover region in the 42nd over.

The task was too much for the Pakistani tail-enders and they were bundled out for 223 in 46.3 overs.

New Zealand's 51-run victory meant that they become the first team to enter the semi-finals.

Bond emerged the most successful bowler for New Zealand, claiming 3 for 45 in his 10 overs. Mills and Oram provided good support, claiming 2 for 38 and 2 for 25 respectively.

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Harish Kotian in Mohali