Birthday boy Ross Taylor's unbeaten century helped New Zealand defeat Pakistan by 110 runs in a Group A match. Taylor celebrated his 27th birthday in grand style as he hit eight boundaries and seven huge sixes en route to his fourth one-day century as New Zealand amassed 302-7 in a Group A match against Pakistan at the new Pallekele Stadium.
Pakistan needed a positive start in their run chase, but Tim Southee and Kyle Mills ensured Shahid Afridi's team were never in the contest and reduced them to 45 for 5 inside 15 overs. Southee dismissed Mohammad Hafeez, who lost a review when he challenged a LBW decision, Kamran Akmal (who had a match to forget) and Misbah-ul-Haq; while Mills accounted for Ahmed Shehzad and Younis Khan. Jacob Oram then got into the act and clean bowled captain Shahid Afridi to leave Pakistan tottering at 66 for 6.
Umar Akmal showed glimpses of his immense potential in his 38, but just when he was looking comfortable at the crease, Nathan McCullum had him caught by Oram at deep midwicket. And, when Abdur Rehman, was also trapped in front by Nathan McCullum with Pakistan 125 for 8, it looked as though New Zealand could bowl out Afridi's team for less than Taylor's 131 not out. But, Abdul Razzaq (62) and Umar Gul (34*) gave Pakistan supporters something to cheer about with their 66-run partnership for the ninth wicket. During his innings, Razzaq became only the fourth player after Sanath Jayasuriya, Jacques Kallis and Shahid Afridi to complete the double of 5000 runs and 250 wickets in ODIs.
While Razzaq and Gul were in the middle, Pakistan may have harboured hopes of an improbable win, but Scott Styris dismissed the veteran all-rounder and Shoaib Akhtar in the space of three balls as Pakistan was bowled out for 192. Southee (3-25) was the most successful New Zealand bowler, while Mills, Styris and Nathan McCullum took two wickets each as Pakistan slumped to their second heaviest defeat in the World Cup.
New Zealand was far superior than Pakistan in all departments of the game in a lopsided match. However, a major concern for New Zealand would be the knee injury to skipper Daniel Vettori early in Pakistan's innings which forced him to leave the field.
The win lifted New Zealand to the top of Group B with six points from four matches and a Net Run Rate of +1.848; while Pakistan, despite having the same points from as many matches are second with a NRR of +0.760.
Earlier, Taylor had two reprieves in the 14th over bowled by Akhtar when Pakistan wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal failed to attempt a catch and then made matters worse by dropping a sitter in the same over. At the time, Taylor was on zero and eight respectively, and he made Pakistan pay dearly for the "birthday gifts" as he picked up the pace in the last five overs of New Zealand's innings.
At one stage, New Zealand appeared to be on course to score around 240-250, especially after the batting power play taken in the 42nd over saw the Black Caps score 37 runs for the loss of two wickets. But, Taylor, who had largely been kept in check until that point broke the shackles and took the Pakistani bowlers to the cleaners.
Taylor started the carnage in the 47th over, which was ironically bowled by Akhtar. He hit two boundaries and three massive sixes, two of those over deep midwicket, as Akhtar was hit out of the attack after conceding 28 runs. The third of those sixes brought up Taylor's century off 117 balls, and his first since October 2008. Taylor struggled early on in his innings, but was determined to see off the storm, and did so even if it meant appearing "ugly" at the crease. But, as he gained in confidence, Taylor started to look the world-class cricketer he is, and once he reached his half-century off 78 balls, the New Zealand vice-captain played more freely, the fruit of which was seen in the last four of the Black Caps' innings.
Taylor, who scored a career-best 131 not out off only 124 balls (his last 62 runs came in 16 balls), then hit three sixes and two fours in the 49th over bowled by Razzaq, which cost Pakistan 30 runs. Left-arm spin bowler Rehman (1-60), who shared the new ball with Akhtar and impressed in his first two spells, was taken to the cleaners by Oram, and conceded 34 runs in his ninth and 10th overs, as New Zealand scored 92 runs in the last four overs. Taylor and Oram (25 in 9 balls) added 85 runs in only 22 balls as the pair sapped the spirit and fight out of the Pakistani players.
Pakistan, though, had the ideal start to the match when Akhtar clean bowled Brendon McCullum in the fourth ball of the match after being hit for a six off the previous delivery, which happened to be one of the three front foot no-balls the 'Rawalpindi Express' bowled in his first spell. Jamie How, who replaced the unwell Jesse Ryder, found the going tough and scratched around for a 29-ball 4, before the impressive Gul trapped him plumb in front. Martin Guptill (57), who scored his second consecutive half-century and Taylor then repaired the early damage by putting on a 57-run partnership for the third wicket, but took more than 16 overs to do so, as Pakistan's bowlers controlled the flow of runs with commendable help from the fielders. Hafeez then trapped James Franklin plumb in front, which the batsman reviewed, but then had to walk back to the dressing room when the TV umpire upheld on-field umpire Daryl Harper's initial decision as NZ slipped to 113 for 4 in the 30th over.
Styris, who was also dropped by Kamran off Afridi and Taylor then added 62 runs for the fifth wicket with the veteran all-rounder scoring 27 before he was trapped in front by Gul, who also clean bowled Nathan McCullum after being hit for a six with New Zealand 210-6 in the 46th over. It was to be all downhill though for Pakistan from here on as Taylor and Oram had fun at the bowlers' expense.
Gul (3-32) was the pick of Pakistan's bowlers by a long mile; and while Afridi took his 15th wicket of the 2011 World Cup when he clean bowled Guptill conceded 55 runs. Akhtar (9-0-70-1) and Razzaq (4-0-49-0) had a match to forget with the ball.