Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram , a motivator par excellence, would not have asked for more from his dedicated men on Friday. Playing their fourth match in group "B" league of the World Cup 1999, Pakistan crushed an ambitious New Zealand and remained at the top of this pool . Having ensured of a place in the Super Six sector with eight points, Pakistan will play their last league match on May 31 against Bangladesh, who have mustered only two points from four outings.
The last five months have been the most memorable for Akram in his illustrious career. After a glorious Asian ciruit, Akram and his men came to this biggest stage to prove a point or two. Till date their superiority has not been challenged in a pool comprising two former champions the West Indies and Australiaand a talented bunch of cricketers in New Zealand. Any way Akrams thirst would be quenched only if his men continue in the same vein to see a proud and joyous skipper with the CUP on June 20.
That is , no doubt, a long long way to go. Yet the manner in which the Pakistan players are responding to their skippers methods , strongly suggests that only a miracle could prevent this team from being at Lords on June 20. Today, New Zealand invited Pakistan to bat first. The Pakistanis batted as though they were chasing a big total smashin 23 off the first two overs. Openers Saeed Anwar (28 off 25 balls) and Shahid Afridi (17 off 22 balls) got into a devastating spell that however did not last long. But in the final analysis , it must be admitted that Pakistans approach throughout the innings was bold and result-oriented.
But for two run outs that of Abdul Razzak (33) and Ijaz Ahmed (51 off 68 balls) the Pakistans total might have been a massive one. There was this burly , highly resourceful Inzamam-ul-Haq to keep the Pakistan flag flying high. He was there till the end to return to a standing ovation having remained unbeaten on 73 ( 61 balls with 7 fours) in a total of 269 for 8 in 50 overs. Eighty-nine runs were added in the last 11 overs thanks mainly to Inzamams admirable sense of commitment. His scrappy running between the wickets would have certainly been forgotten and forgiven on this day.
Pakistan bowlers did not take long to break the back of the New Zealand batting line-up sending back six batsmen for just 71 runs in 19.5 overs. First Shoaib Aktar, who really looked unplayable, got two wickets in his first three overs . Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq claimed a wicket each before Paksitans utility man Azhar Mahmood unleashed two successive blows in the 20th over trapping Chris Cairns and Adam Parore leg before off the fourth and fifth balls respectively.Pakistan chose to relax after these remarkablesuccesses.
The New Zealand s seventh wicket pair of Stephen Fleming and Chris Harris batted with greater confidence and even looked set to play till the end. But Fleming made 69 (99 balls) before falling in the 39th over being cuaght by Akram off Azhar. After this match , the points table of this pool read as follows ( under: played, won, lost and points): Pakistan 4-4-0-8; West Indies 4-3-1-6; New Zealand 4-2-2-4 ; Australia 4-2-2-4; Bangladesh 4-1-3-2; Scotland 4-0-4-0; Australia and the West Indies will play on May 30 . Pakistan vs Bangladesh and New Zealand vs Scotland are scheduled for May 31. Two group A matches are slated for Saturday. India (four points) take on England (6 points) at Edgbaston and South Africa (8 ) will meet Zimbabwe (4 ) at Chelmsford. Sri Lanka (2) and Kenya (0) will clash on May 30.