Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Black Caps vs. Pakistan

The Black Caps have hit a bit of a purple patch this summer. They saw off the West Indies in three test matches, three ODIs and two T20 matches (one cancelled due to rain), winning them all in an emphatic matter. But Pakistan would be a bit more of a challenge, surely?

It appears not. In the ODI 5 match series, they were bossed by New Zealand all the way. By the time they came back to Wellington, it was 4-0 down in the series. Whilst a dead rubber, both sides had something to play for: Pakistan to try to salvage some dignity with a win, and New Zealand to continue their winning streak (now up to 10). We went down to the Basin Reserve to watch the match on Friday.

The weather was fine - sun in the sky, a few clouds about but certainly no rain threatening, and the winds light. As an international match, the NZ cricket authorities have finally got the message that not everyone is happy with hot dogs and chips, and there was a good range of food and beverages available to suit all tastes. We noted the Greek Food Truck in residence and decided to pay them a visit later on. The beer choice was also better than the usual Steinlager or Tui (depending on who sponsors), with Black Dog Brewery ales available.

We settled into the revamped seats in the shade of the R A Vance Stand. New Zealand won the toss and decided to bat, and piled on the runs from the word go, reaching fifty without loss in less than six overs. The loss of Munro at 52 and Williamson at 101 slowed things down and in the middle of the innings the Pakistan team managed to stem the flow of runs, but without taking wickets. Guptill carried on to reach his 100, and promptly holed out going for 6; at which point De Grandhomme was promoted up the order to try and get some quick runs in the last 10 overs, as he has done on several occasions recently. However this time he was restrained by the bowling and was unable to find the boundary with the regularity that we’d come to expect from him. Other batsmen came and went, and at the end the Black Caps had amassed 271. At the beginning of the innings passing 300 looked a probable result, but the fielding and bowling restricted them.

Still, 272 is a respectable target to defend. But New Zealand, even without Trent Boult in this match, have a powerful bowling attack and the wickets soon started tumbling. They lost three in the first 10 overs, and, in the immortal words of cricket commentators the world over, they were letting the required run rate get away from them, scoring at around 3 an over when they needed 5.5. The middle batsmen settled things down a bit and managed to put on a decent partnership of 105 in the middle of the innings, but too slowly, way too slowly. When they were both out in quick succession, it was left to the tail-end batsmen to try and salvage the match. A big ask, to get 100 runs in 10 overs with three wickets remaining. To their credit, they all came out and gave it a go – in fact the final batsmen all scored at well over 100% to try to rescue the match. But it was all too little too late, and whilst 23 from 2 overs at the end is very gettable, they were down to their last wicket at this point. One mistake was all it took for the Pakistanis to be bowled out in 49 overs, still 15 runs short of the target.

The Black Caps extend their winning streak to a record-equalling 11 matches on the trot, with three T20 matches to be played against Pakistan over the coming week.

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