Result: New Zealand win the final test to tie the series 1-1
When victory finally arrived in the end, it felt strange and solemn. This was no different from the mood throughout the match, which, although was played at the highest level possible, bore the overall sadness of the current cricket world. But the one thing everyone will agree on: The New Zealand cricket team is a classy bunch of professionals. They’re humans first, and not shy to make their own statements. They were unfortunate enough to be caught playing in a test match during a trying time for cricket, and they responded with great grace.
The freak passing of Australian young star Phil Hughes
was on their minds, evident from the fact that there was a ‘rest day’ after the first day of this Final test in Sharjah. While Pakistan dominated the first day with 280-3, when play resumed after a day of mourning, the Kiwi players didn’t want to be there. They had made it obvious, and one felt that this would then turn out to be a no-contest. Their minds were elsewhere, and rightly so.
However, there was a game to be finished.
A one-sided affair it was, but to everyone’s shock, Pakistan was destroyed. The Kiwis showed no emotion whatsoever while picking up Pakistan’s final 7 wickets for next to nothing on the second morning. There were no celebrations, not even a clap or two. Most remarkably, the Kiwis didn’t bowl a single bouncer when they bowled Pakistan out on the second morning. They bowled just two meek bouncers on the fourth day, out of respect and humility for their fallen comrade.
They then batted as if they didn’t care, and this turned out to be one of the most exhilarating team innings ever. McCullum
was struggling emotionally, but he scored the fastest Kiwi test century, and ended up scoring 203 at more than a run a ball. Williamson scored 193, and the tail wagged, and eventually, New Zealand made their highest ever test score and declared at 690. Astoundingly, this was at almost 5 an over, which stunned the ‘home’ team into meek submission once they batted. Boult blew away their top order with some stunning in-swingers, and just like that, amidst poignant sadness and mourning, New Zealand pulled off perhaps their most important test win of the century. They’re a team on the rise under McCullum, and this no-holds-barred victory suggested that they can play in the sub-continent, and better than their neighbours (Australia) too. An innings and 80 run victory is no small effort, but tell that to the Kiwis—who still didn’t celebrate after the win.
They were left confused.
This was only their third away test win against Pakistan in their test history, and their first since 1996. They did it with a world-champion performance against a strong test team. But Vettori, a Kiwi legend who made a shock return to play perhaps the final test of his career at Sharjah, agreed that this was no time for celebration.
Deep inside, they must be a little proud, especially because some of them were close to Hughes and this was the best possible tribute, but outwardly, this was just another tough day at the office.
The family—their cricket
fraternity—was suffering, and they were trapped on a field. When the final wicket fell on the fourth day, they wanted out of it. They had done it in the best and most graceful way possible. They played with an urgency of wanting to get done with as soon as possible. Pakistan were caught unaware, outplayed and out-emotioned in a match that many will remember as New Zealand’s most defining new-era test performance.
Drawing a series 1-1 against Pakistan in the Middle East is near-impossible, considering the fact that England were beaten 0-3 when they were ranked 1, and Australia 0-2 after they were ranked 1 a few months ago. Teams have been whitewashed here, except South Africa (1-1), and it is tragic that a death had to bring out the Champion in the Kiwis. But that’s life—your mettle is tested during trying times.
There’s a lot to learn from this fine team. Not only because their jerseys had ‘P.H.’ written on them, but because they played the game with utmost respect—the kind of attitude it deserves to be played with, despite its terrible setback and broken heart.