Pallekelle: Pakistan beat New Zealand by 13 runs at Pallekelle on Sunday.
If Group D -- with Pakistan, New Zealand and Bangladesh -- was the death zone, then Brendon McCullum has emerged the big hunter here. And after his blistering batting against Bangladesh, all eyes were on him to in this run chase. He did manage to strike a few blows, but his 31-ball 32 wasn't enough to see the Kiwis through.
Earlier after Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat, they started steadily with Imran Nazir and Mohammad Hafeez guiding the team to a commanding position, till the former was caught by Tim Southee off his own bowling.
But Nasir Jamshed didn't let Pakistan as he launched himself into the assault. Clobbering four massive sixes, Jamshed raced to his 50 in 27 balls. Hafeez too looked set for another half century when James Franklin castled him on 43. Jamshed (56), too, fell soon to experienced-pro Daniel Vettori while trying to accelerate.
Two quick wickets slowed down the momentum as Pakistan ultimately ended quite a few runs short of what it looked like in the beginning of the innings. Umar Akmal tried to force things with a 15-ball 23 but was caught in the deep while trying to clear the fence.
But, nonetheless, a last-over burst from Shahid Afridi (12) and Shoaib Malik (9*) took Pakistan to a healthy 177/6.
New Zealand started well and didn't lose a wicket until 53 runs. But, then, two quick strikes reduced them to 54/2.
Daniel Vettori was sent up the order to bring in his experience into play, but he too fell to Saeed Ajmal for 18.
With McCullum back in the dressing it was always going to be difficult for Jacob Oram (11) and Ross Taylor to stay at par with an ever climbing asking-rate, and some excellent bowling from Ajmal and Hafeez only made it tougher for the Kiwis.
Taylor (26 off 11 balls) and James Franklin (13) did manage to stage a fight back, especially with former hitting three consecutive boundaries off Umar Gul in the 19th over. The Kiwis needed 19 from the last over, but Ajmal picked up two wickets in it to restrict them to 164/9. He returned with 4/30.
With a thumping win in their last match, the Kiwis were almost on their way to the Super 8 stage. But, still, uncertainty is the name of this game. Because, Bangladesh can always cause an upset and no one would want to take a chance on this one. Now, all eyes will be on the Bangladesh-Pakistan match.