“Despite being in a winning position for a while ago, Pakistan left the field without a win due to power-hitting of Colin de Grandhomme, who a few years ago, gun down Pakistan with his bowling in a Test match”.
Pakistan tasted massive success in the second half of 2017. When nobody believed in them, they proved everyone wrong as they lifted their maiden ICC Champions Trophy last year in June. Then cricket returned to their backyard with three T20Is against World XI and a T20I against Sri Lanka later on, Pakistan won them all. They whitewashed Sri Lanka in UAE in the five-ODI series. They were unbeaten in nine consecutive ODIs and they had two of their players at the top of the ICC rankings – Hasan Ali (ODI bowler) and Mohammad Hafeez (ODI all-rounder) when they ended 2017 on a high.
Sarfraz Ahmed and Co entered 2018 with an away series against New Zealand, where conditions would be different but then the country was always a fast bowler’s paradise so there always was a slight hope for Pakistan, whose fast bowling attacks were among the competitive ones. Just into two weeks of 2018, Pakistan’s successful run was shattered to bits by the BlackCaps, who sealed the series with wins in the first three ODIs before they even triumphed in the fourth game on Tuesday. If Pakistan played for pride in the fourth ODI, they did manage to pull it off, almost. The word, ‘almost’ made a huge difference between what could have happened and what actually happened.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) January 16, 2018
It was only for the second time in the series Pakistan had crossed 200 and for the first time they had posted a 250-plus score. It was for the first time this year four of Pakistan’s batsmen scored half-centuries and hence they managed to pile up 262 runs in 50 overs. When it was their turn with the ball, they struggled in the beginning when New Zealand openers Colin Munro and Martin Guptill took their side off to a flier. The former once again was in song as they brought up his sixth ODI fifty before the 19-year-old Shadab Khan struck the hosts with an exceptional spell.
The legspinner first broke the opening stand by removing the explosive Munro for 56 off 42 balls and left New Zealand at 88 for 1. In his next over, Shadab then sent the other opener, Guptill, also back to the dugout. He used a google and a bad timing from Guptill saw him caught by Hasan Ali at the long-on. The teenager also dismissed Tom Latham who also mistimed and was caught by Babar Azam at the slips. The senior-most batsman, Ross Taylor, who was playing his 200th ODI, failed to make it a memorable one. When Taylor was needed to bat on, he succumbed to the pressure following the loss of quick wickets on the top and was trapped by pacer Rumman Raees.
Whenever New Zealand looked to make a comeback in the game, Pakistan was ready with a tiffing reply. When New Zealand crossed 150, courtesy of Henry Nicholls and the skipper, Pakistan once again made a huge blow to them by dismissing Williamson. The BlackCaps captain, whose nature of play usually is far from being aggressive got caught in the mood and smashed the left-arm spinner Haris Sohail for a six. However, the ball only reached a few inches inside the boundary, where Raees leaned back with two hands and took an excellent catch.
Grandhamme rise to the occasion
Chasing 263, New Zealand’s half the team was back to the pavilion and Pakistan could not have got a better opportunity to finish the game in their favour. But then they could not stop Colin de Grandhomme, who was playing his first match since returning from Zimbabwe following his father’s death. If Pakistan’s attack looked invulnerable post the first 13-overs, de Grandhomme turned tables around with a blink of an eye. He began with two dot balls and then smashed a fuller delivery from Hasan Ali for a four.
Haris, who was a hero a few minutes back for dismissing the New Zealand skipper, was the first one to get the taste of de Grandhomme, which only was a trailer of the big picture that awaited the touring party in the next hour or so. De Grandhomme hit Harris for two consecutive sixes before he added two more of those in the subsequent overs from Shadab Khan and Mohammad Amir. If one thought it was sheer slogging, they were wrong, De Grandhomme displayed a blend of power hitting and technique as he took New Zealand closer to the target with an absolute ease.
THERE IT IS!
A record 11th straight victory for the BLACKCAPS as they chase down 263 with 5 wickets in hand with 25 balls to spare. 106 off 65 balls by de Grandhomme (74* off 40) & Nicholls (50* off 74) getting them home! #NZvPAK pic.twitter.com/LWfHe3J0Xy
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) January 16, 2018
He had Nicholls on the other end, who supported him and joined the party himself whenever Pakistan bowled loose deliveries. After a certain point, Safraz and his boys looked clueless and they seemed to had no answers at all to the treatment they received from the duo of de Grandhomme and Nicholls. The latter brought up an underrated but deserving fifty as New Zealand levelled the scores and the very next ball Pakistan saw themselves suffering yet another loss from a winning position.
However, New Zealand found themselves in the same position as Pakistan with the ball in the first innings. Their key pacer, Trent Boult was not in the rhythm and taking advantage of that, Pakistan collected as many as 89 runs in the last 10 overs and 22 out off the final over bowled by Boult. It was their senior man Hafeez who stood up for them with the bat and his vital knock of 81 off 80 balls would have paid off had de Grandhomme not unleashed himself towards the end.
— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) January 16, 2018
Despite an overall positive performance after a really long time, Pakistan ended in the moment of “so near, yet so far.” It was a matter of de Grandhomme’s wicket and the match would have been theirs. Nevertheless, with the final ODI to be played in Wellington, Pakistan will look to learn from their mistakes from the fourth ODI in order to avoid a whitewash in the series.