LAHORE: The 1999 World Cup semi-final at Old Trafford, and a fireworks display from Shoaib Akhtar inspired Pakistan to a comfortable nine-wicket victory over New Zealand. His figures of 3 for 55 weren’t that spectacular, but the manner of his three wickets certainly was –– they all came from searing yorkers. This was cricket at its sexiest. It was supposed to be a tough battle, but the Pakistan fast bowlers blew New Zealand away at Old Trafford on June 16, 1999. Wisden Cricket Monthly said that “Shoaib was the tournament’s pin-up: exciting, effective, expensive, exhilarating.” Cricket, more so the limited-overs versions, is a batsman’s game. It is not every day that a batsman scores a match-winning hundred, and a bowler with figures of 10-0-55-3 is named Man of the Match. Unless you are Shoaib, that is. And this was Shoaib at his peak. It was not only about the fire with which he bowled. There were three scorchers — two fast, one slow — all of which hit leg-stump. Shoaib was as accurate as anyone; he disguised his variations well; he tormented most batsmen who faced him (though he strayed at times); and each of the wickets pushed New Zealand back from their ascension towards a big score. But it was more about the raw pace. He broke the 100-mile-per-hour barrier earlier in the tournament, and never seemed to lose his searing pace; on this occasion against New Zealand in the semi-final, he bowled as fast as ever. Fortunate were those who had witnessed it live, for seldom has such raw energy and power been unleashed on the biggest stage of all. The first Kiwi who became Shoaib’s prey was Nathan Astle who was clean bowled. In his second spell, Shoaib delivered probably the ball of the tournament: the yorker came at 92 mph, about 15 or 20 more than what Stephen Fleming anticipated; the ball crashed into the base of the leg-stump by the time the bat had come halfway down. The stump was flattened, but the psychological damage it caused to New Zealand and her captain was way, way more than that. The third victim was Chris Harris. As Shoaib steamed in, Harris, expecting yet another thunderbolt, tried to play through the line: the cannily disguised slower pegged the leg-stump back. New Zealand managed to finish with 241 for 7 (47 of which were extras, including 17 wides and 12 no-balls). New Zealand never put up a challenge. Saeed Anwar 113 not out) and Wajahatullah Wasti (88) never seemed like getting out. Later, Ijaz Ahmed walked out with a vengeance and went after every ball. And Pakistan were all over New Zealand. Australia tied the other semi-final against South Africa at Edgbaston, but went through for their performance in the Super Sixes. They beat Pakistan by 8 wickets in the final at Lord’s.