Young Afridi, veteran Taylor set script for NZ's 209/9

November 09 2018

Ross Taylor's arrival to the crease came under unfortunate circumstances. George Worker's straight drive deflected off Shaheen Afridi's hands on the follow through and hit the stumps, catching Kane Williamson backing up too far. In 21 balls after electing to bat, the visitors had found themselves reeling at 25 for 2.

To give Taylor company was a struggling Worker who couldn't make friends with the slow nature of the pitch. There was also a disciplined new-ball attack and an over-excited bunch of Pakistani fielders who were throwing themselves around even if not effectively.

Boundaries were hard to come by and the energy on the field wasn't allowing them to steal singles and two as easily. Taylor did what he usually does. In the shadows of all the action, he kept the scoreboard ticking. That's the nature of his batting, one that has made him the most consistent ODI batsman in the last five years after Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Rohit Sharma. Unlike the three or those following him on the Top 10 list, there is nothing flashy about his game. Maybe it has got to do with his less than impressive strike rate of 83 - unfitting in modern 50-over cricket. He may have swapped his once one-dimensional hard-hitting game for a more well-rounded one, but it has ironically remained critical for New Zealand - in the era of 'express yourself' and thereafter as they have attempted to retain that aura. Today, was just another show of quintessential Taylor and why he is at the heart of New Zealand's batting.

After Worker and Tom Latham were castled in quick succession, by Mohammad Hafeez and Afridi respectively, New Zealand were reduced to 73 for 4 in 16 overs, and set the stage for two non-showmen to keep the act engaging. Henry Nicholls, after a duck in the previous game, played a significant support role along side Taylor as New Zealand trudged their way out of a precarious situation with a 75-run alliance for the fifth wicket.

Had it not been for Nicholls running out of patience and attempting a half-hearted charge in vain against Hasan Ali, New Zealand could have found themselves in a better position. Not to be. He was castled by the pacer in his second spell, and soon after Colin de Grandhomme, fell for the same bait holing out Shadab Khan to long on. A steady platform was let away, and with almost 10 overs to got, Taylor was left with the company of the tail.

Tim Southee and Ish Sodhi threw their bats around and added some crucial runs, while Taylor sauntered to a 120-ball 86*. It wasn't the most entertaining of innings but there was ample maturity. In a rare instance of having a batsman bat 47 overs without bringing up a century, Taylor's innings took New Zealand to a score of respectability - giving his bowlers a handy total to defend.

While Taylor was working in the shadows, Shaheen Afridi put up a fine display of fast bowling, vindicating the call as to what makes him one of the most promising fast bowlers in the world. He used his pace and variations to good effect, executing without erring in his lines and lengths and picked up fours wickets while also effecting a crucial run out. The Pakistan captain may have erred in not using up his full quota of overs but his spell, above all, was the reason for New Zealand to be restricted to 209 for 9.

Brief Scores: New Zealand 209/9 in 50 overs (Ross Taylor 86*, Henry Nicholls 33; Shaheen Afridi 4-38, Hasan Ali 2-59) vs Pakistan.

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