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Kiwis waddle into the semis
by NT Shiv Kumar
Oct 25, 2006
It was Stephen Fleming’s evening for the double celebration – leading his team into the semi finals in a must-win game that also made him the captain with most caps in ODI’s.

The black caps never cease to amaze when it comes to big tournaments – they are invariably beset with a few injuries, never seem to have much of prior warm-up series and are never in the reckoning with the punters. Yet, they manage to pull off wins in key stages of the tournaments without any headline-screaming star in their ranks.

Their batting was powered by classical knocks from Fleming who flayed the seamers despite their lively spells early on and Styris who paced his innings to perfection. What seemed like a potential 240-250 chase for the Pakistanis suddenly became a formidable 275 target, thanks to blistering cameos from Jacob Oram and McCullum in a grand spectacle of crispy slogs all over the park.

Pakistan openers started their pursuit with a flurry of boundaries but it was always going to be short-lived against the extra yard of pace and bounce that eventually accounted for Farhat and Younis Khan in quick succession. There were periods of consolidation and sensible batting when Hafeez and Yousuf were together and later on between Yousuf and Malik that threatened to take the game away from the kiwis but Shane Bond responded to his skipper’s call to pull the shutters down on the Pakistanis- bowling fast and furious stuff that unsettled Yousuf’s grip on the cover drive and forced Razzaq to mistime his cross batted swipe to seal the game. Earlier, Shahid Afridi played true to his ‘unguided missile’ tag though on this day he chose to crashland within the 30-yard circle.

A beaming Younis Khan at the post match ceremony was reflective of Pakistan not losing much sleep on this loss as they have a virtual quarter final game set up against the proteas, though Rameez Raja will have a sleepless night wondering if he was the only one bamboozled by Younis’s comical diction of the English language!
 
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