Black Caps seal T20 series with superb display

Author
Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 21 Dec 2020, 11:19AM
Ish Sodhi and Kane Williamson celebrate a wicket. Photo / Photosport
Ish Sodhi and Kane Williamson celebrate a wicket. Photo / Photosport

Black Caps seal T20 series with superb display

Author
Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 21 Dec 2020, 11:19AM

Often brilliant, mostly clinical, New Zealand wrapped up the Twenty20 series against Pakistan with a match to spare after a nine-wicket victory at Seddon Park that somehow got to the final over.

They cantered home with four balls to spare thanks to an unbroken 129-run partnership between Tim Seifert and Kane Williamson.

Seifert, with two sub-20 scores, would have felt he left the party against the West Indies just as things were getting good.

He has made up for it against an attack that offers much more than the men from the Caribbean.

Seifert, 84, pulled and punched with ruthless efficiency, while Williamson, 57, came as advertised. They would be the first to acknowledge that the reason they could take their foot off the pedal in the last few scratchy overs was due to the work done with the new ball by Tim Southee.

Indeed, it should never have got as close as it did. If Wahab Riaz had taken a miracle catch on the boundary from the four Williamson hit to win the game, it would have been an awkward and unnecessary final four balls.

The only other blot on the innings was Martin Guptill's dismissal.

Guptill has been struggling for runs this summer. His ball-striking has never been in question but his decision-making has not been quite in synch with his instinct.

That was perfectly illustrated on the first three balls of the second over. Facing the highly touted speedster Haris Rauf, he clipped the first ball for four, drove the next ball well over the long-off boundary and then hit one on the bounce back to the bowler… and ran.

Either he or partner Seifert would have been run out by half a pitch if the startled bowler had shown an iota of composure.

Off Faheem Ashraf's first over he hit another six over long-off before holing out to deep square. His 21 off 11 was a cameo that hinted at something a bit more.

That brought new dad Williamson to the crease and that will be the last time we mention that unless the maestro brings it up himself. Truth is he should have been out second ball but his snick went between first slip and keeper to the disgust of Haris.

That was Pakistan's chance; their elusive fingerhold on a rock face. Instead it went for four and with it the series.

Earlier, Pakistan saw a whole bunch of new faces running into bowl to them, but the result was pretty much the same.

The inexperienced men who triumphed at Eden Park made way for stalwarts Southee, Trent Boult and Williamson, while Kyle Jamieson also came into the fold.

Pakistan again won the toss and batted and produced a remarkable facsimile of their efforts in the first match, scoring 163-6 thanks to a last-over flurry, but never convincing that it was a defendable target on such a small ground against an in-form line-up.

The top order again failed miserably, with Abdullah Shafique highlighting the futility with his second second-ball duck of the tour, again spooning up a simple catch. You do have to feel for the 21-year-old whose tour so far has consisted of two weeks in quarantine and four balls out in the middle for neither a run nor a convincing shot.

Whereas Jacob Duffy did all the damage in Auckland, here it was Southee who continued his golden form with 4-21 off four beautifully directed overs.

The only difference between Hamilton and Auckland was that one guy stuck around to the end. Mohammad Hafeez, fresh off a duck in Auckland, batted beautifully, pacing himself to 99 not out thanks to a late surge off the final over delivered by Jamieson.

There is a natural reaction to feel disappointment when you finish one run short of a mighty milestone, but the really wasn't any more Hafeez could have done short of changing the rules of cricket as he faced up to the final ball on 93 and duly chipped it over the rope.

It was the perfect cap to an innings where he moved through the gears without ever straining the clutch.

"I was never thinking about my century," he said, "I was just thinking about putting runs on the board."

If he had a bit more help from his teammates, it could have been a winning knock, not just a pleasing one.