Remember when Pakistan visited New Zealand for what seemed like every year in the 1990s? It started with that World Cup semi-final in 1992, and then on an annual basis after that. Every year of the two Ws breaking toenails of Blair Pocock, Bryan Young, Rod Latham and all.
The only home side highlight of that period was the victory in Christchurch in 1995, but there’s a bit of an asterisk there. Subsequent terror attacks and the changing nature of international cricket have meant we have not seen that much of them her since, and even less away. Their players are not even allowed to play in the IPL, and they have taken a back seat over the last decade and more. Last night’s match showed how much we have missed them.
Last night reminded us of that. Following six weeks or so of flogging Sri Lanka around New Zealand we got to face up against our old friends Pakistan, and it was a bit of an eye opener.
There is a certain charm about playing Pakistan in cricket. Fast bowlers with graceful actions, fast bowlers who seem to get it through a genuine pace without a lot of effort, batsmen who seem to hit the ball exactly where you would not expect it to be hit, and spinners that are a lot harder to get away than they should be.
There is also something about the way Mohammed Hafeez went about his work. He did not score until his ninth ball; he ended up with 61 from 47. That was how you Keep Calm.
And then there is Boom Boom Afridi. It seems like he has been around for ever; yet he is still on 35. Crazy Afridi. The owner of the greatest wicket celebration going around. The guy who though he could get away with a spot of ball chewing. During his career he has held most of the short form records at some stage or other, but there has always been a glorious unpredictability about how he played. The 2015 Afridi, however, seems to have a very sharp head on him. He knew exactly what was required at Eden Park.
Last night New Zealand was 89/1 chasing 172 with less than half the overs gone. In theory, Pakistan was gone. But, as the scars from 1992 remind us, Pakistan are capable of fighting from anywhere. The scrapped away, rotating their five bowlers, and New Zealand were effectively strangled.
Tours with no test matches in them can be frustrating; they are back later in the year for some tests. But we know we have a battle on our hands here. Enjoy.