Taylors late blitzkrieg power NZ to 302/7

Pallekele (Sri Lanka): Pakistan paid heavily for butterfingered Kamran Akmal`s mistakes as birthday boy Ross Taylor smashed a whirlwind unbeaten century to power New Zealand to an impressive 302 for seven in their group A match here on Tuesday.

Handed a life when he was on zero by wicket-keeper Kamran, Taylor toyed with the Pakistani bowlers towards the end and in Jacob Oram`s company piled up a mammoth 114 runs in the final six overs.

Adopting a cautious approach in the beginning, Taylor, who survived two chances, exploded in the final stages of the innings and remained unbeaten on 131 runs that came off just 124 balls.

Utilising most of the opportunity, he showed scant respect to the Pakistani bowlers and struck as many as eight fours and seven sixes during his fiery innings.

Nathan McCullum (19 off 10) and Jacob Oram (25 off 9) scored briskly and gave perfect support to Taylor towards the end, while Martin Guptill came up with a gritty 86-ball 57 upfront to lay the foundation for the score.

Umar Gul was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers with figures of three for 32 but the trio of Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq and Abdur Rehman were taken for special treatment by the Kiwi batters in the final overs.

Inspite of the impressive scorecard, it was not a rossy start for New Zealand after opting to bat as they lost Brendon McCullum early bowled by Shoaib Akhtar in the fourth delivery of the innings.

Guptill, on the other hand, looked solid and scored bulk of the runs in the initial overs even as Jamie How struggled.

How`s misery finally ended when Umar Gul had him lbw in the 13th over with a delivery that hurried onto the stumps.

After the initial hesitation, Guptill looked at ease and did not allow the runs to dry up hitting as many as six boundaries to notch up his fifty in 71 balls.

New Zealand vice-captain Ross Taylor, who became only the fourth batsman to hit a ton on his birthday, lived dangerously from the onset and survived two chances off Akhtar in the 14th over — on both occasion a wicketkeeper Kamran was the guilty.

Guptill and Taylor then played sensibly without taking too many risks to form a 57-run stand for the third wicket.

It took the highest wicket-taker of the tournament and Pakistan`s inspirational skipper Shahid Afridi to break the dangerous-looking partnership when he bowled Guptill.

A ball later new man in James Franklin also departed, trapped lbw to Mohammad Hafeez but not before the left-hander went for an unsuccessful review.

It could have been further damage for the Kiwis in the next over if not for another blunder from Kamran. The Pakistani stumper dropped Scot Styris (28) off Afridi.

Given a life early on in their innings, both Taylor and Styris added insult to Pakistan`s injury by stitching 62 runs for the fifth wicket to set the platform for the big score.

But as was the case in most of the earlier matches in the tournament, batting powerplay once again proved detrimental.

With two set batsmen at the crease, New Zealand took their powerplay in the 41st over and lost Styris immediately.

But Taylor turned out in a murderous mood from there on and clobbered Akhtar for three sixes and two fours to pile up a huge 28 runs of the 47th over.

After Akhtar, Taylor turned his attention to Razzaq and meted out the same treatment to him to record 30 runs of the penultimate over and single-handedly take New Zealand past the 300-run mark, which at one stage looked impossible.