Cricket World Cup: Shoaib and Saeed destroy Kiwis

New Zealand 241-7 Pakistan 242-1 Pakistan win by 9 wickets
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The Independent Online
THIS WAS a drubbing of quite embarrassing proportions and in some ways it is better it happened now than in the final on Sunday. Pakistan's superiority over New Zealand in yesterday's World Cup semi-final was so complete that even the gift of 47 extras did not inconvenience them as they ambled to victory by nine wickets on the back of another fine century by Saeed Anwar, his second in successive World Cup matches.

Played in front of a boisterous full house more in tune with Karachi than Manchester, Saeed lofted Nathan Astle over mid-off for the winning runs. Or so we must presume. After one premature pitch invasion which took 10 minutes to sort out the ball disappeared into a swarm of marauding spectators seeking trophies such as stumps and bails. The umpires awarded two runs and Saeed finished unbeaten on 113 amidst a cacophony of klaxons and thunderflash cracks.

New Zealand might enjoy the underdog status but even they must concede that underdogs must occasionally show some pedigree. This was the fourth time that they have been in a World Cup semi-final and, while they deserve some praise for getting this far, they seem unable to take the decisive step.

Chasing 242 to take their second place in the final this decade, Pakistan barely broke sweat and would probably have won without losing a wicket had Wajahatullah Wasti not holed out having a slog in the 41st over. As it was, he and Saeed set a new World Cup record for the first wicket, their 194 beating the 186 set by Gary Kirsten and Andrew Hudson against the Netherlands in 1996.

Unless the occasion overcame them the combination of Saeed and Wasti, left and right-handed respectively, completely bamboozled New Zealand's bowlers. If they were aware of Saeed's flamboyant off-side play - something the bowlers tried but ultimately failed to curb by coming around the wicket - Wasti, playing in only his seventh one-day international, clearly threw them.

In big games like this it is all too easy for players to let the situation carry them away into fantasy land on a surge of adrenalin. Wasti, however, looked anything but fazed and he waited until the ball was under his nose before stroking it with clean precision.

For a while he even exceeded Saeed's own standards of elegance, and at times it appeared as if Geoff Allott and Co were being taken apart by a pair of velvet gloves. Even New Zealand's usual tactical banker of taking pace off the ball did not work and the 23.3 overs sent down by the trundling trio of Astle, Gavin Larsen and Chris Harris cost 112 runs.

Whoever won the toss was always going to bat and New Zealand had first use of a pitch which staged the India-Pakistan match eight days previously. If the theory - that the pitch would become more irregular as the game progressed - was sound, the reality was that it hardened and quickened up.

New Zealand only get to play on pacy pitches when they go abroad, their own strips being marginally less firm than your average peat bog. Consequently, they tend to struggle with the quick stuff, something Shoaib Akhtar again provided with unerring direction and panache.

The Rawalpindi Express, as Shoaib has been dubbed, reached 90mph in his first over. With the mercury pushing the 80F mark the muscles were obviously warm and when he detonated the hapless Nathan Astle's stumps, his Bob Beamon-esque leap was almost worth the admission price on its own. Astle was castled off an inside edge, the angle of the bat betraying his slow reaction.

Many bowlers generate pace from banging the ball in short on a hard pitch. Few, though, can generate enough velocity to make the best batsmen come down late when the ball is full. Shoaib does, and the yorker with which he removed the New Zealand skipper's leg-stump was 92mph and inch perfect.

Fleming, one of several top order batsman short of runs, was the initiator of a middle-order revival after Matthew Horne, following a bright start, was bowled playing outside a straight yorker. Together with Roger Twose, the captain added 94 runs in 18 overs before being Shoaib-ed.

Once he had gone for 41, Twose got bogged down as Wasim spread his on- side field and instructed his seamers to go around the wicket. Most people talk of Pakistan in terms of naked talent, but Wasim is an old hand who had clearly done his homework and Twose's dismissal for 46, to a fine catch by Ijaz at backward point, was down to frustration.

Cairns came in and thumped a few in a useful 44, breaking his bat in the process. The sacrifice was in vain and, once Wasti and Saeed went about their magic, all Kiwi hopes of appearing in their first World Cup final splintered too.

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