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A spirited bowling effort lifted the BLACKCAPS to a miraculous win over Pakistan in their do-or-die Super 8 match at the ICC World Twenty20 at Kensington Oval, Barbados.
Defending champions, Pakistan, were chasing a modest total of 134 but fell one run short despite a fine 67 not out by opener Salman Butt.
The BLACKCAPS strike bowlers did the job early in defence of their small total with Shane Bond getting Mohammad Hafeez for eight and Kyle Mills removing brothers Kamran Akmal (5) and Umar Akmal (0) to have Pakistan reeling at 25 for three.
Ian Butler backed up the new ball bowlers by starting with a maiden as the pressure mounted and run-rate soured and when he trapped Misbah-ul-Haq LBW with the first ball of his next over the BLACKCAPS were firmly on top.
Pakistan then suffered a massive blow when Nathan McCullum took a spectacular catch in the outfield to remove Shahid Afridi for 11. In windy conditions, McCullum had to make ground and then dive forward to cup the ball handing Butler his second scalp - reducing Pakistan to 58 for five.
However, Abdul Razzaq shifted the momentum back when he took 16 runs off the 15th over bowled by Vettori. He got Pakistan another step closer when he hit Bond for six in the next over but went for one big shot too many and was caught in the deep for 29 in the 17th off the bowling of Nathan McCullum with the in-form spinner finishing his spell with one for 19.
It came down to the last over with 11 required and the ball was handed to the BLACKCAPS standout bowler, Butler, who had figures of two for 11 off his first three overs.
In a drama filled finish the scorecard read dot, four, dot, four, bye leaving Abdur Rehman the task of getting two off the final ball. A long break in play followed as Vettori meticulously set his field and when the final ball was bowled Rehman sent it sailing into the hands of Martin Guptill at square leg.
Butler was awarded man of the match for his match winning three for 19. Speaking after the victory he said, “It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played in and I know how much it meant to the guys.”
Butler and Mills came into the team for Jacob Oram and Tim Southee and along with Nathan McCullum proved to be the difference between the two teams. Vettori was full of praise for the new bowlers, “The changes we make worked and that’s always a good thing. Kyle Mills and Ian Butler really won the game for us by being wicket-taking bowlers and we continued to attack the whole way through the innings.
“We back ourselves as a bowling unit and at the end of the day they were outstanding.”
Earlier, the BLACKCAPS made an encouraging start after losing the toss and batting. Brendon McCullum fired at the top of the order but then wickets fell frequently as the frustrated batsmen struggled with some accurate Pakistani spin bowling.
Top order batsmen Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill all failed to get going with McCullum’s 33 from 29 the only decent score from the specialists.
Styris made a useful contribution of 21 as he shared the only significant partnership of 40 with Daniel Vettori. When he departed the BLACKCAPS were on 98 for five after 14.4 leaving the rest of the line up with a lot to do.
Vettori held the innings together after promoting himself to five in the batting order. He was eventually run out as he sacrificed himself by going for a second run off the penultimate ball and returned to the dressing room with the top score of 38 off 34 deliveries.
A six off the final ball of the innings by Nathan McCullum saw the BLACKCAPS scrape through to an uncomfortable 133 for seven.
It is often difficult to predict which Pakistan team will turn up. Dreadful in the field earlier in the week, today everything stuck for the energetic Pakistani fielders with their bowlers sending down 53 dot balls to suffocate the BLACKCAPS.
It was the spin of Abdur Rehman (two for 19) and Shahid Afridi (two for 29) that stymied the batsmen with the raw pace of Mohammad Sami (two for 25) also proving difficult.
When asked whether he thought that New Zealand fans would have got up to watch the match Vettori quipped, “They might have watched the first innings and gone back to bed but a few die hard supporters will be happy.”
“Our fate is in our hands. We have to go on and beat England in St Lucia,” he concluded.