Kane Williamson Takes New Zealand To Victory

December 13, 2014

Kane Williamson's unbeaten 70 - his sixth ODI fifty in the last seven matches - steered New Zealand's chase and helped them draw level with Pakistan in the five-match series. The four-wicket win was also New Zealand's first against Pakistan in 11 ODIs in Sharjah.

New Zealand's victory had an impressive support cast, too. Matt Henry finished with 4 for 45 in his third ODI, with help from Mitchell McClenaghan and the quick Adam Milne. New Zealand's openers added 103 runs, with Anton Devcich hitting his maiden ODI fifty, before Luke Ronchi's stroke-filled 36 and 58-run stand with Williamson eased the pressure of a few quick wickets in the middle.

Earlier, Pakistan were dismissed for 252, a challenging score given that they were struggling at 20 for 3 in the fifth over. Mohammad Hafeez's 76, and handy contributions from the middle and lower order helped the side battle their way out of trouble on a flat Sharjah track.

Devcich and Dean Brownlie got the chase off to a solid start with their brisk partnership at the top. Mohammad Irfan got a few deliveries to rise up uncomfortably at the openers but the other Pakistan bowlers also fed the pair with wide deliveries and balls on the pads that were duly taken for runs.

Their stand was broken by Shahid Afridi in the 19th over, when he bowled Brownlie three runs short of a half-century. Devcich and Williamson continued steadily but the chase threatened to unravel when New Zealand lost four wickets in an eight-over period between the 25th and 33rd overs.

Devcich fell to a run-out, responding a little late to Williamson's call, before Haris Sohail struck three times, dismissing Ross Taylor, Tom Latham and Corey Anderson. With 84 required off the last 17 overs, New Zealand's main challenge was stemming the slide of wickets and Ronchi and Williamson did that with a productive stand. Williamson was content to turn the strike around and Ronchi provided the boundary shots, off both the quicks and spinners. He fell in the 43rd over, with the score at 225. Williamson then took charge of the chase, finishing the game in the 46th over.

 Pakistan were reined by Henry, McClenaghan and Milne, after they had opted to bat first. Henry and McClenaghan were brought into the side for the second ODI in place of Nathan McCullum and Kyle Mills, who was ruled out due to a groin injury.

Henry struck in his first over, getting Ahmed Shehzad to edge a fuller delivery to slip after a series of back-of-length deliveries. Younis Khan was almost dismissed lbw for a first-ball duck, before replays showed that McClenaghan had overstepped by a significant margin. McClenaghan, though, had his wicket in that over as Younis poked at an angled delivery and was caught at first slip. Asad Shafiq played all around a delivery from Henry to leave the score at 20 for 3.

Hafeez then took charge of the innings along with Haris Sohail. He handled the short balls from the New Zealand bowlers confidently, and was also assertive against Daniel Vettori, whom he hit for 23 runs off the 24 deliveries he faced. Some of Hafeez's confidence rubbed off on Haris, who had an awkward time at the start of the innings with the short ball. Once he settled in, Haris focused on building on his start and turning the strike over to Hafeez. The pair consolidated the innings with a 77-run stand. Hafeez brought up his 50 off 59 balls.

After Haris fell, Misbah-ul-Haq and Hafeez overcame a few quiet overs and uncertain calls for singles to add 66 runs but Henry returned to account for both batsmen in successive overs.

Hafeez played a pull shot straight into the hands of the deep midwicket fielder and two overs later, Misbah was out caught behind. The Pakistan captain missed an attempted hook shot and after being given out, opted for a referral, suggesting that the ball may have hit his forearm. However, the third umpire backed the on-field call. Misbah's dismissal meant that Pakistan had two new batsmen at the crease in the final Powerplay and the last 10 overs.

Shahid Afridi came out to a roaring reception but was not as restrained as in the first ODI. However, he top-edged Milne attempting a big shot after having smashed the previous two balls for sixes. Pakistan persisted with Sarfraz Ahmed at No. 7 and he kept the score moving along with the lower order as Pakistan took 55 off the last 10 overs.

Pakistan also have a few more concerns to deal with on the fitness front. Umar Gul missed the second ODI due to a bruised tendon in his left ankle, seemingly a recurrence of an old injury. Misbah-ul-Haq walked off the field during New Zealand's third over due to a hamstring niggle and his fitness will be assessed on Saturday.

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