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Williamson, Taylor power New Zealand to massive win

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On a perfect batting strip at McLean Park, centuries from Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor powered New Zealand to 369, a total that proved well out of Pakistan's reach despite the platform laid by their openers. The asking rate kept climbing on Pakistan, and their middle and lower order fell away to give New Zealand a 115-run win with close to seven overs left to play.

Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez put on 111 for the first wicket, and while their scoring rate was below the required rate, they set Pakistan up for an all-or-nothing effort in the last 20 overs. At the 30 over mark, they were two down and needed 203 with Hafeez still at the crease on 80.

Pakistan took the batting Powerplay at that point, and Hafeez swung the first ball from Grant Elliott over the square leg boundary. Looking for a repeat the next ball, however, he holed out off a slower ball. In came Shahid Afridi, promoted up the order, but he fell for 11 and Umar Akmal followed in the next over. There could only be one result thereafter.

Batting first after winning the toss, Brendon McCullum provided the innings thrust at the start, and Martin Guptill and Williamson kept that momentum going with a 128-run second-wicket stand before Taylor added the final flourish. New Zealand scored 116 in their last 10 overs, during which time Taylor smashed 73 in 36 balls.

After swinging in vain at a couple of slower full-tosses outside off from Bilawal Bhatti in the final over, Taylor was on 92 with two balls remaining. He sent the penultimate ball of the innings soaring into the crowd beyond deep extra cover, and finished with a thick outside edge to the third man boundary. Taylor's unbeaten 102 was New Zealand's 100th ODI century.

While Taylor's innings included plenty of his trademark clubs over the leg side, Williamson's was full of nimble footwork and pretty strokes. For all that, it was no less brutal in its pace, and his century came up in 80 balls. Guptill looked on course for a hundred as well, and was distraught after getting himself out, launching a full-toss from the part-time legspinner Ahmed Shehzad straight into long-off's hands.

That fortuitous wicket apart, the bowlers who made up Pakistan's fifth-bowler quota - a problem they are likely to grapple with right through the World Cup if Mohammad Hafeez doesn't clear the tests on his bowling action - conceded 93 runs in 12 overs. That they bowled that many overs was down to the fact that two of their frontline seamers, Bilawal Bhatti and Ehsan Adil, gave away more than eight an over. With Junaid Khan out of the World Cup, neither Bhatti nor Adil made any sort of case for their inclusion as his replacement.

Taking one of the two new balls, Bhatti went for 21 in his first two overs, bowling either too short or too full and conceding three fours and a six to McCullum. At the other end, Mohammad Irfan was bowling a tight line and generating plenty of bounce to keep the openers relatively quiet. Bhatti's profligacy forced Pakistan to bring on Shahid Afridi as early as the sixth over, and he made the breakthrough in his second over, forcing McCullum to chop on while playing one cut shot too many. Afridi would have dismissed McCullum in his first over had Sarfraz Ahmed not muffed up a stumping.

Later, in the 38th over of New Zealand's innings, Sarfraz missed another stumping off Afridi, when Taylor was on 25.

In between, Williamson and Guptill had put on a century stand at comfortably over a run-a-ball, without needing to play any outlandish shots. Pakistan's bowlers - Irfan and Afridi apart - were giving them plenty of freebies, and the ball was coming on so well that Guptill could merely take a step forward and play pick-up shots over the midwicket region and Williamson could skip down the track and chip the seamers over wide mid-off.

At the 30-over mark, New Zealand were 181 for 2. Doubling this, by the old logic of 50-over cricket, would give them 360, and this is precisely what they achieved.

Williamson waltzed past his hundred and fell in the fourth over of the batting Powerplay, trying to scoop Irfan over short fine leg but not quite managing the adequate elevation. If Pakistan thought they could apply the brakes at that point, they were wrong. Grant Elliott and Taylor swatted Bhatti for sixes in the 43rd over, Taylor's clearing the stadium roof. Bhatti went for 21 in his next over, the biggest of the innings, with Taylor smacking him for three fours and a six, two of those shots coming off full-tosses.

Elliott holed out to Adil soon after, but Taylor carried on swinging, and dented Irfan's figures with three successive fours at the start of his final over. Till that point, he had given away 37 runs in nine overs.
(Cricinfo)

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