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Pakistan cruise to six-wicket win

Pakistan 147 for 4 (Nazir 59) beat New Zealand 143 for 8 (Gul 4-15) by six wickets

New Zealand's least-favourite claim to fame is their status as cricket's most reliable semi-finalists. In five of the nine World Cups they have reached that stage of the tournament and gone no further, and that pattern was repeated in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20.

Chasing 144 for a place in the final, a late wobble from Pakistan's middle-order wasn't enough to turn the match back in New Zealand's favour. Imran Nazir led the assault with a 41-ball 59, adding 60 in seven overs with Mohammad Hafeez, before the captain, Shoaib Malik, sealed the match with a six with seven balls remaining.

New Zealand's participation in this match was unexpected to say the least - South Africa's astonishing capitulation against India at Durban on Thursday gave them a lifeline, and for much of the match it looked like they were still clinging to it. Pakistan's bowling was accurate and committed throughout, with Umar Gul outstanding with 3 for 15 in his four overs, and when their own turn came to bat, Nazir and Hafeez flogged the new ball with such gusto that Pakistan were always ahead of the rate.

All the same, New Zealand contributed immensely to their own downfall. Ross Taylor enduring a particularly high-profile shocker - while batting he managed to run out both Daniel Vettori and Shane Bond with his non-existent calling, and later in the field he dropped Nazir on 44 at mid-off as Jacob Oram came into the attack.

It proved to be a pivotal miss - Nazir smacked two sixes before the over was out to reduce the requirement to 49 from 48 balls with nine wickets in hand, and not even the loss of three wickets in 13 balls could derail their momentum. Nathan McCullum later missed Shoaib in the deep with five runs still to get, but New Zealand's day in the field was summed up when Lou Vincent was cracked on the back of the head by a pinpoint shy from deep cover. It was an uncharacteristically ragged display all round.

Take nothing away from Pakistan, however, whose cartwheeling celebrations at the moment of victory summed up the spirit that has carried them to the final. They dominated the match from the very first over, when Mohammad Asif once again set their agenda with his tight line, length and nip off the seam. Though New Zealand's openers, Vincent and Brendon McCullum, survived the test to add 50 for the first wicket, they were never able to break the shackles.

An untimely rain-break sealed New Zealand's fate. Vincent fell just nine balls after the resumption, superbly caught by the bowler, Fawad Alam, as he drilled the ball back down the pitch, and McCullum followed soon afterwards for 26, as he swung lustily at a low long-hop from Afridi, and was pinned lbw dead in front of middle stump.

Scott Styris thumped a four and a six in his first seven balls before picking out Tanvir with a lofted drive to deep point, and two balls later, Peter Fulton slapped a length delivery to cover. Craig McMillan went for broke and holed out to long-off for 12, as did Oram, who swished across the line and was caught behind off Gul. Taylor's running then did for the next two batsman, and though he made some amends by taking 17 off Asif's final over, New Zealand's total of 143 for 8 never looked like being enough.

In response, New Zealand's bowlers were off the pace - most notably Shane Bond, who was flogged for a first-ball four by Hafeez and was later picked up off a good length over midwicket. Mark Gillespie leaked three boundaries in his first over as well, and at 54 for 0 after six overs, Vettori had no option but to bring himself into the attack at the earliest opportunity. He was as tight and probing as ever with his subtle variations, but Nazir picked the right balls to take on, and both Vettori and Scott Styris were lofted into the stands.

Styris made a timely breakthrough when Hafeez went down to sweep his first delivery and was adjudged lbw, but Pakistan were unruffled. They had progressed to 96 for 1 by the time Nazir fell to Jeetan Patel - also lbw - and not even the loss of Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi in quick succession could stop them. Shoaib and Misbah-ul-Haq combined to pick off the remaining 37 runs, and Pakistan's joy at the finish was unfettered.



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