Ish Sude and Ken Williamson celebrate the little gate. Photo / Photosport
New Zealand, who is often gorgeous, and mostly clinical, wrapped up a Twenty20 series against Pakistan with a match to spare after a nine wicket win at Seddon Park and somehow reached the final.
They got home with four balls to spare thanks to the ongoing 129-year partnership between Tim Seifert and Ken Williamson.
Seifert, with two points under 20, would have felt left the party against the West Indies just as things were getting better.
He compensated for an attack that offered far more than the men from the Caribbean.
Seifert, 84, pulls and hits with ruthless efficiency, while Williamson, 57, came as advertised. They will be the first to admit that the reason they took their foot off the pedal in the last few leaks was because of the work done with the new ball by Tim Southee.
In fact, it should never have come close as I did. If Wahab Riaz had taken a miracle on the border from hitting the four Williamson to win the match, the last four balls would have been embarrassing and unnecessary.
The only other stain in the roles was Martin Joptel’s sacking.
Guptill was struggling to run this summer. His ball shot was never in question, but his decision-making wasn’t entirely in line with his instinct.
This is fully illustrated in the first three balls of the second. Facing fast driver Harris Rauf, he cut the first ball to four, guided the next ball well over the long distance limits and then hit one on the bounce to the shooter … and ran.
He or his partner would have run out of Sv half of the field if the astonished player showed an iota of coolness.
From Fahim’s first attack, Ashraf hit six others long before hiding in the Deep Square. 21 of 11 had a cameo that hinted at something a little more.
This resulted in a wrinkle of new father Williamson, and this will be the last time we mention it unless the maestro himself raises it. The truth is that he should have taken out the second ball but his exasperation went between the first slip and the goalkeeper to goalkeeper disgust.
That was Pakistan’s opportunity. Their elusive fist on a rocky face. Instead she went for four and with it the chain.
Earlier, Pakistan saw a whole bunch of new faces wandering in front of them, but the result was pretty much the same.
Inexperienced men who triumphed in Eden Park gave way to Southee, Trent Boult, and Williamson, while Kyle Jamieson also came into the fold.
Pakistan once again won the draw and punched and produced a gorgeous mirror image of its first game effort, scoring 163-6 thanks to a final spree, but never convinced it was a defensible goal on such small ground against the line formation.
The first ranking failed again miserably, as Abdullah Shafiq highlighted the messing of his second ball duck in the round, again resulting in a minor catch. You have to feel the 21-year-old whose run has so far taken two weeks in quarantine and four balls in the middle for no run and no convincing shot.
While Jacob Duffy did all the damage in Auckland, here it was Southee who continued his golden form with 4-21 of four beautifully directed sums.
The only difference between Hamilton and Oakland was that there was one youngster left, close to being finished. Mohamed Hafeez, new born from a duck in Auckland, hit beautifully, speeding himself up to 99 not thanks to a late spike in the final by Jamieson.
There is a natural reaction to feeling disappointed upon finishing one round a short distance from a great achievement, but Hafeez can no longer do so after changing the rules of cricket as he faced the final ball in 93 and duly slotted over the rope.
It was the perfect cover for roles where he moved through gears without straining the clutch.
He said, “I had never thought about my century, I was just thinking of putting jogging on the board.”
If he had gotten more help from his teammates, it would have been a huge win, not just a fun hit.
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