Saturday , May 8 2021

Cricket: Behind the magic – How Ajaz Patel and the Black Hat took their game to the next level against Pakistan

Ajaz Patel really floated after the Black Hat caught one of the most dramatic and impressive test crickets that won over Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.

"I was in the middle of the crowd and my feet did not touch the ground," Patel said, remembering that the trial match was sealed and his teammates gathered around him. "It's something very special – a dream that comes true and that means the world to me and everyone else too."

Patel, who became the fifth New Zealander to take a man from the match award on his debut, took a five wicket bag to lead New Zealand to a magical four-run victory.

In the Black Caps dressing room full of laughter and singing, Patel was swift enough to realize that it was an unusual sight for the New Zealand team to celebrate a victory away from home.

"Winning is here against these people – many people say to me it's not always like this, but I will appreciate it today. The response is very ridiculous and has not completely sunk."

Patel had to wait for a third referee to confirm the fifth goal – Pakistan's top scorer Azhar Ali – was the winner of the match. "That's the last review – honestly, my heart is beating fast."

Ajaz Patel. Foto / Getty
Ajaz Patel. Foto / Getty

New Zealand captain Kane Williams described the victory as "the best in the last memory" and among the best in his career.

"One of the characteristics that we hold fast is our attitude every time we have to go back to the game, be it with a bat, ball or on the field for four days," he said.

"I think the fighting attributes of this team really shine, of course today. It's important to build a number of parts to get into the next match, for sure."

It was a test where Pakistan always seemed to be at the top but they never completely slammed the door on a persistent Kiwi. The final day is typical – with Pakistan chasing a modest 176 to win, New Zealand made three initial strikes before Pakistan surrendered again and seemed to crawl towards a victory that would continue an extraordinary final result in 2018, a year in which they are already undefeated in tests and featuring a dominant victory over England in Australia in their latest series.

[[[[Read more: The key number of Black Caps triumph over Pakistan]

But Neil Wagner claimed important goal Asad Shafiq (45) on the stroke of lunch to end 82-run for the fourth goal and send the hosts to rest on a dismal record.

With 46 runs needed and six goals in it should still be a walk for Pakistan, but they lost their last six wickets for 24 matches in the post-lunch period interspersed with a series of loose shots and some bad guys running.

When it comes to crises, with Pakistan needing 15 runs with two goals in hand, Patel is positively lifting his game to another level to become an instant hero. Delivery of the winner of the match to trap Azhar Ali's feet before the goal is perfectly grounded on the stump before straightening to hit the batsman who is confused with the stump.

"This is indeed dramatic," Williamson said. "During the four days, both teams were under pressure. I thought at the end of the day it was a good advertisement for the cricket test. The goal was challenging and both teams had to fight hard, and of course Pakistan had the upper hand after the first day.

"To go through four days and stay in the match and come out with this result clearly must rank as one of our best wins. In theory it is an old test match, really slow in terms of scoring.

"People have to fight hard to walk and that partnership [112 runs between BJ Watling and Henry Nicholls] it was very big for us to get directions, even though that wasn't a big clue. But that still keeps us in the game. I think when you look back, winning with a small margin means that every contribution in terms of scores and running on the field is important. "

Ajaz Patel with Shield Plunket. Photos / Photosport
Ajaz Patel with Shield Plunket. Photos / Photosport

Williamson always maintains hope against obstacles, especially because the goal tends to fall into "clumps".

"I'm not sure why it's challenging to start as a batsman, but we know if you can keep pressing, who knows what might happen?"

This is not an easy road to the summit for Patel who has been a fast bowler all his life but turned to a spin to have fun in several club matches.

Under the guidance of the former Dipak Patel spinning test, he became the highest class goalkeeper in first class cricket for three consecutive years, named this year's Male Domestic Player at the 2018 New Cricket Award, and led the Central Stags to win the Plunket Shield title with 48 wicket at 21.52, repeated success at the domestic level set the basis for its Black Caps selection earlier this year.

"I want to think I've been waiting for a while," Patel said. "I am 30 years old now, so I have worked hard to be able to put myself in this position so it is quite useful to be able to contribute and really get one on the line for the country."

When asked what the team did during the break to regain strong and overthrow Pakistan, Patel said it was just about keeping things simple.

"I think it's New Zealand's way of believing in whatever is possible and we go there with the right character to us and we go out and play the Kiwi way."

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