An uncharacteristically responsible innings from Shahid Afridi and brilliant batting by youngster Haris Sohail helped Pakistan record a stunning three-wicket win in the opening ODI match last night against New Zealand.
Afridi (61 in 51 balls) and Sohail (unbeaten 85 in 109 balls) came together at 124-6 and raised 110 runs for the seventh wicket as Pakistan reached the target of 247 runs with three balls to spare.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq had won the toss and decided to put in New Zealand to bat.
Their competent total of 246 for seven was built around a very well compiled knock of 105 in 135 balls by Ross Taylor – his third consecutive ODI hundred after the successive hundreds he made against India in January.
It was the first time Afridi had faced more than 25 balls in an ODI in the last 17 months, but more remarkably, the big-hitting Pakistani star had just one six in his innings, and that too came after he reached his 50.
It was only the second time in his 385-match career that Afridi made reached 50 without hitting a six.
The 25-year-old Sohail, who was later adjudged the Man of the Match, was playing only his fifth ODI innings, but he batted with maturity way beyond his age.
He built his innings with patience, eschewing the shots early on and reaching his 50 with just two boundaries in 73 balls.
Veteran Daniel Vettori not only bowled well, taking two top-order wickets of Ahmed Shehzad and Younis Khan, but the oldest Kiwi in the field also took a stunning catch to get rid of Misbah.
The Pakistan captain played what looked like a safe lofted shot when on 13, but Vettori ran several steps backward from mid-on, then flung himself towards the ball and caught it with his outstretched left hand.
Earlier, the 30-year-old Taylor shouldered the responsibility of being the most experienced batsman in the team (Vettori and Kyle Mills have played more matches) as wickets kept falling around him.
Anton Devcich and Dean Brownlie started well for the Kiwis, but after looking good during his brief stay, Brownlie was the first to go as he square cut Mohammad Irfan and Shehzad took a superb diving catch at point.
Irfan quickly made it 44-2 when captain Kane Williamson top-edged an intended pull for wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed to take an easy catch.
That was when Taylor walked in, and by the time he reached 41 in the 29th over, half the side was back in the pavilion for 111.
Taylor had looked anything but comfortable in his stay till then, but he grew in confidence and added 58 runs with Daniel Vettori (27) for the seventh wicket, and 44 runs with Luke Ronchi (23) for the sixth as New Zealand inched towards a respectable score.
Taylor reached his 50 in 86 balls, but picked up pace later and his next 55 runs came in just 49 balls.
Irfan finished with 3-57, and the tall paceman was easily Pakistan’s most impressive and most successful bowler. Riaz took 2-51.
Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen has not given up hope of resuming his international career – and feels he still has "four or five years left".
The 34-year-old was sacked by the England and Wales Cricket Board at the start of the year following the 5-0 Ashes humiliation in Australia, and outlined in his subsequent autobiography a number of criticisms of the team.
The opinions expressed in his book will have done nothing to enhance his prospects of an international recall, but Pietersen feels he has unfinished business following last winter's 'hammering' Down Under.
"I know there are a lot of changes that are going to be happening in England in the next three or four months, so who knows?" he told Australian media after arriving in Melbourne, where he will play for the Stars in the Big Bash League.
"I know I still have four or five years left.
"Whether I just want to play T20, though, is another thing.
"The next six months, with the changes happening in England, it could be interesting."
He continued: "I have 8,300 runs – I'd love to get 10,000 Test runs.
"I'd love to beat Australia again. Last time, we got hammered.
"That doesn't sit well. I'm not a player who likes being hammered – I'm a player who plays to win."
Pietersen acknowledged one benefit of his international lay-off was that his problematic knee had had plenty of recovery time.
"Having not played Test cricket since January, my body has felt a hell of a lot better," he said. "I'm feeling good – ready to go."
Michael Clarke has been passed fit to lead Australia in the emotional opening Test against India in Adelaide, with the late Phillip Hughes symbolically named 13th man.
Clarke had been in doubt for the series opener starting Tuesday with recurring hamstring problems and in the wake of the heart-wrenching death of his close friend Hughes, which plunged the cricket world into mourning.
He was not at the traditional captain's pre-match media conference at the Adelaide Oval, but fast bowler Mitchell Johnson confirmed the skipper would lead Australia in what will be an emotional day.
Hughes never regained consciousness after being struck by a bouncer during a domestic game in Sydney, and died in hospital surrounded by family and friends last month.
"It's a huge boost to have Clarkey back in and playing for us," Johnson told reporters of the Test, which was originally scheduled for Brisbane but was delayed and switched to Adelaide after the Hughes tragedy.
"I think with his captaincy he's shown how strong he's been over the last couple of weeks with the tragedy that we've had. We need him out there in this tough series."
A number of tributes are planned for the Test with the Australian players wearing Hughes' Test cap number 408 on their playing shirts, and black armbands in honour of their former team-mate.
Before play, the Australian and Indian teams will stand before a large 408 painted on the oval's playing surface as they observe a video tribute, narrated by former Australia Test captain and prominent commentator Richie Benaud.
Johnson said the availability of Clarke, who has been widely praised for his leadership during the Hughes crisis, would help the team cope.
"He's a strong leader. He has been an aggressive leader," the fast bowler said.
"He's a huge boost for us in our line-up. I really hope that he can go out there and score a lot of runs for us. We all know that he's really keen to do that. He's a huge part and we're glad that he's back."
Clarke, in particular, took the death of Hughes hard. He struggled for composure in delivering a family statement to the media, while he led the tributes at the funeral and was one of the pallbearers.
Johnson said wearing Hughes's 408 cap number on the team's shirts was a fitting tribute to their fallen team-mate.
"It's really special. His family, I think that would make them very proud," he said.
"I'm very proud to be able to wear that number through this Test. We've named him as the 13th man as well. It's all very special."
Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood and batsman Shaun Marsh were left out of the starting XI, with Hazlewood to stay in Adelaide and Marsh to return to playing duties with his Western Australian state side.
Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon. Josh Hazlewood (12th), Phillip Hughes (13th)