Shaken Pakistan and New Zealand teams play on as Kiwis level ODI series

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson led from the front and set up his team’s win with a knock of 123 in Abu Dhabi. Aamir Qureshi / AFP
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson led from the front and set up his team’s win with a knock of 123 in Abu Dhabi. Aamir Qureshi / AFP

ABU DHABI // New Zealand beat Pakistan in the fourth one-day international yesterday, but the subdued atmosphere at Sheikh Zayed Stadium gave the game away. In light of the worst terrorist attack to hit Pakistan, at a school in Peshawar on Tuesday morning, this was a match that felt like it should not have happened.

At one stage it looked as if it might not, but to the dismay of many fans, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) pushed ahead with the game.

Both teams observed a two-minute silence and wearing the customary black armbands as a mark of respect to the 141 victims of the attack, most of whom were children.

In a statement, the PCB defended the move, suggesting the ODI was not postponed because of constraints imposed by broadcast commitments but, ambiguously, for “reasons advised by New Zealand management”.

“We are playing outside Pakistan only because of the threat of terrorism at home. If we allow terrorists to disrupt our matches abroad, then all will be lost,” the statement said.

“So we have decided to go ahead with the match and our players will wear black armbands in grief and observe a minute’s silence and flags will be lowered.”

There was unconfirmed talk that New Zealand were not keen on rescheduling the game for today, as it would mean their side would play two games back to back, with the final ODI scheduled for tomorrow.

Their board had already stated, though, that they were happy to proceed at the direction of the PCB.

“Everyone at New Zealand Cricket are shocked by the tragic events in Peshawar and our hearts go out to those affected, as well as the Pakistan team and cricket family,” a statement said.

The thought of cancelling seems not to have been an appropriate option. One PCB official said they were concerned that cancelling a game because of terrorism when playing in their exiled home would send the wrong message in their efforts to bring cricket back to Pakistan.

They have just welcomed Kenya as the first non-Asian team to tour Pakistan since the Lahore terror attacks of 2009 for a series against Pakistan A.

It is a small but significant first step in their efforts to revive international cricket at home.

Today’s game at Lahore has been postponed to tomorrow, but calling off a game in the UAE, the board felt, would have been a blow.

The loss of broadcast money would also have weighed heavily on a board that can ill afford further financial losses.

But as the day and game wore on, in front of a distinctly sparse crowd, it became evident how much the tragedy had affected Pakistan’s players. One official conceded that the players had found it difficult to focus.

That it would be the case became apparent on Tuesday night when Younis Khan, who hails from the province where the attack took place, summed up the mood of the team.

“It will be very difficult for us to play. We have hearts also and you cannot imagine how much pain there is. The whole team’s mental state right now is such that I cannot explain.”

As the toss took place pre-match, the team’s manager Moin Khan expanded on the reason for playing.

“We are saddened by what happened,” he said. “Our thoughts are with the families. We tried not to hold the match. The team and board discussed it and we felt it should go on.

“We have been playing all our home matches away because of terrorism and because enemies of Pakistan don’t want cricket in Pakistan.

“This is a way to show that we won’t be cowed down by such barbaric acts.”

Younis made a first ODI hundred in six years and lifted others around him, but neither was it enough and nor did it matter. His knock of 103 – and 49 runs from captain Shahid Afridi – were in vain as New Zealand, powered by Kane Williamson’s 123, won by seven runs.

The proceeds from the match will be donated to the families of the victims.

Follow us on Twitter at SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 18, 2014 04:00 AM


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