The last week has been overshadowed by the unfortunate death of Phillip Hughes, who passed away after being hit in the head by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield game. The third and final Test of the series thus did not hold a lot of significance for the players, although there was much on the line as far as a victory was concerned. However, both sides were deeply affected by the sudden passing away of one among them to really think about the eventual result. Under the circumstances, New Zealand displayed exemplary skills and temperament to cruise to a crushing win, although the result did not matter much for either side in the end.
For the record, New Zealand began poorly in the match, allowing Pakistan, who batted first, to get away to a rock-solid start. But, once the match resumed following the one-day break to mourn the loss of Hughes, there was only one way the match was heading, and that was in New Zealand's direction. The Kiwis performed as if they owed it to the departed batsman. They hardly put a foot wrong during the last days of the Test, in the process registering one of their most emphatic Test wins away from home. As for Pakistan, as skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq candidly admittedly, they were way too affected by Hughes' demise to concentrate on the game.
If you take away the Hughes angle, New Zealand had plenty to be pleased about their overall performance. Spinner Mark Craig was the one who began the turnaround for the Kiwis. At one point of time in the game, it seemed that Pakistan would post a massive score on the board, especially after Mohammad Hafeez posted a career-best 197. But, Craig came up with a magnificent bowling performance to outdo Pakistan at their own game. A spinner from New Zealand running through a sub-continent outfit is an extremely rare phenomenon, which makes Craig's efforts all the more special. He also contributed with the bat, chipping in with a smart half-century.
When New Zealand came out to bat, they were in completely rollicking mode. While it is true that both sides were equally affected by the Hughes' incident, New Zealand chose the occasion to inspire themselves to greater heights, in a way paying their tribute to the late Aussie. The knock Brendon McCullum played out in the middle was exceptional on all counts. He just went out and hit the ball as hard as he could. The approach had a lot to do with Hughes' incident. McCullum had pretty much decided that the only way to take his minds off the unfortunate incident was to attack the red cherry unapologetically. Kane Williamson also took the opportunity to get among the runs.
New Zealand's victory in the final Test was well-deserved, but it was the manner in which they approached the game following the Hughes tragedy that was so heart-warming. Although New Zealand got Pakistan all-out in both the innings, they did not bowl a single bouncer when the Test resumed a day after Hughes' death. Further, no a single wicket, nor 50s, 100s and even the 200 wasn't celebrated. There were only gentle lifts of the bat, or simple handshakes. By showing such grace under pressure, they won over the hearts to cricket lovers. As it is, this match was never about the result. Not after cricket's cruel twist.
--By A Cricket Analyst