Sydney or Barbados, Pakistan seem to have no clue about how to chase the relatively easy targets. Needing a modest 134 to keep their hopes of a semi-final spot alive, the Pakistan batsmen turned in a sub-par performance to fall short by one run against New Zealand in Bridge- town, Barbados, yesterday and bow out of contention.
Just one batsman showed any kind of intent for the Twenty20 champions: Salman Butt, and he was there at the end, unbeaten on 67 but heartbroken. He was on strike as Ian Butler ran in to start the final over. Pakistan needed 11 runs and Butt had two boundaries and two dots from the first four balls to keep the game alive. A quick single off the fifth brought Abdur Rehman on strike and he attempted a mighty hoick on the leg side to get the two runs Pakistan needed. Instead, he found Martin Guptill at deep square leg.
Inconsolable, Butt sank to his knees. His captain Shahid Afridi, however, looked in better control of his emotions after the game. "I think it was a good game of cricket and we all enjoyed it," he said in a post-match TV interview. Butt, he really played a great mature innings, but New Zealand bowled really well, especially in the first six overs. "We have one more game and we will go with a positive attitude. Maybe we finish with a happy ending."
For Butler, he has already experienced one of his biggest days in the black jersey. The sensational final over aside, he bowled with venom and got the crucial wickets of Misbah-ul-Haq and Afridi to finish with three for 19 from four overs. "This is what we play for, but two balls to go I was not so sure," said Butler in a post-match TV interview after receiving his man-of-the-match award. "This is one of my biggest games I have ever played for New Zealand. I know how much it means to the guys. We made the most of it."
Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, also played a big part in the must-win game, stroking a defiant, innings-high 38 to help the Black Caps post 133 for seven after they had lost their top four with only 58 on the board. "We were a few [runs] short, but we back ourselves as a bowling unit and today we were outstanding," Vettori said in a post-match TV interview. "Kyle Mills and Butler really won the game for us. Both of them are wicket-taking bowlers and we continued to attack the whole way through the innings. It paid dividends in the end."
New Zealand, who lost their opening Super Eight game to South Africa, play England tomorrow and victory there will take them through to the last-four. After two defeats from as many games, it is adios for Pakistan and they have no one but their batsmen to blame. Their implosion brought back memories of a horrendous day Down Under when they failed to chase 176 for a rare Test win against Australia.
The rot started early as Kamran Akmal got an inside edge on to his stumps. Hafeez chased one outside the off-stump and Umar Akmal was out first ball, undecided whether to weave out or play at a short delivery. Those three were back in the shade inside four overs. Misbah-ul-Haq joined the trio in the dugout after scratching around for 13 balls and Shahid Afridi's departure in the 10th over with 58 on the board took them a step closer to the exit. The 53-run partnership between Butt and Abdul Razzaq gave them some hope, but it was not to be.
* Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi