Kane Willamson steps up as the Black Caps clinch ODI series in Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI // At the core of this new, young crop of New Zealand players who are driving the side to cricket’s most exciting revival is Kane Williamson. At present nothing seems beyond him.
One day he will be their full-time captain. He has already led the under-19 side and, pressed into leadership in place of Brendon McCullum for this series, he has led the side as if to the manor born.
In large part he has done so with the bat, in an unobtrusive and unfussy style. No frills are expended.
He was on course for a second successive hundred at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Friday evening when dismissed within one stroke of it on 97.
It did not matter as, on a slow pitch, it allowed New Zealand to post a match-winning total of 275. It gave Williamson 346 runs for the series at a strike rate of 90 and, more importantly, an impressive series win.
Much as they may try to underplay their chances, it will be difficult to dampen down the hype ahead of a home World Cup. For so long New Zealand have been nailed-down semi-finalists at world events but this time they may go all the way.
For a small country, their depth is staggering. They have won this series without McCullum and their two leading fast bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Yet in Adam Milne, Matt Henry and Mitchell Mclenaghan it has been easy to forget about the other pair.
The trio were again to the fore, seven wickets between them and a five-for for Henry. It helped restrict Pakistan to 207 and secured a 68-run win, to take the series 3-2.
Pakistan, on the other hand, are stumbling their way into the World Cup, which is perhaps the approach that suits them best. This series loss meant they have not won an ODI series this year.
It also continued their wretched and revealing run in series deciders. Over the past decade they have won just one match to decide a series tied at 1-1 or, as was the case here, 2-2.
It has been a truly strange series for them as it was a surprise they were still in contention to win going into the last game.
Primarily they have been hamstrung by a rising injury count to front-line players but they have compounded it with baffling, unbalanced selections.
Time and again – and again last night – their top order has had too many batsmen without the kind of shot-making power essential to the modern 50-over game. Not only that, but a combination of Ahmed Shahzad, Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq hoards away dot balls as if they are going out of fashion.
On Friday, the trio played out 65 dot balls between them from the 119 they faced, which, at two, three and four in the order is lunacy.
That has left too much on the lower order, which, though bolstered by the form of Shahid Afridi and Sarfraz Ahmed, has fought losing battles.
Even stranger was Pakistan choosing to go with just two specialist bowlers – Mohammed Irfan and Zulfiqar Babar – in this game.
From the second over, once Williamson had won the toss and chosen to bat, and with Babar on, the attack never looked like it was going to take wickets or stop runs.
Ultimately it consigned Pakistan to a staggering eighth ODI series loss out of the last 10 in what is, ever more nominally, home.
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Published: December 19, 2014 04:00 AM