MOHALI: In the end, the 181-run challenge thrown by the New Zealanders proved insurmountable for Pakistan, who ended their run-chase in a whimper at 158/5.
Sharjeel Khan hacked way at the bowling with a fury that raised hopes of an upset, but losing regular wickets at critical moments just did not allow Shahid Afridi’s boys to sink their teeth into the game and force the Blacks Caps to tap out.
When Sharjeel fell (47 from 25 balls) with the score at 65 in the last over of the Powerplay with the run rate more than 12 an over, it seemed a win was par for course.
Khalid Latif departed after three runs, but Ahmed Sehzad looked to carry on from where Sharjeel left off. But his departure and that off Afridi in the 15th over left them to score 57 in 5 overs.
With Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik’s wickets still intact, and at a little over 10 runs an over, Pakistani fans in the crowd dared to hope.
But the trio failed to score a boundary in the last 31 balls which meant Pakistan’s chase ended without any fireworks.
Earlier, Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson turned on the heat for Pakistan on a cool breezy evening to tot up a quick-fire 55 at the end of the Powerplay.
That set the tone for New Zealand’s batting at Mohali on Tuesday evening and when they closed their innings, they had set a tough target of 181 for Pakistan.
After winning toss for a third time in a row, New Zealand opted to bat on a pitch that looked firm and the opening duo of Guptill-Williamson shared an opening stand of 62. Guptill contributed 38 with four 4s and three 6s.
There was another 50-run partnership – between Guptill and Corey Anderson, who had scored 17 till then.
After the Eden Gardens, it was the turn of PCA Stadium at Mohali to root for Shahid Afridi’s team.
And though the cheering was not as loud as it was when they were playing Bangladesh in Kolkata, it was enough to show which way the sentiments lay.
The all-too familiar cry of Pakistan jeetega often rent the night sky, and the first delivery of the game, an inswinger from Mohammed Amir, sent the excitement soaring.
The five dots in that first over held much promise on a slightly green top.
As it turned out, any hopes the over may have raised for the pacers petered off soon with Amir and Mohammad Irfan giving away 26 runs in next two overs.
Captain Shahid Afridi was again expensive, giving away 40 runs from his allotted four overs though to his credit, he picked up the wickets of Colin Munro and and Anderson.
Mohammed Sami returned the best figures of 2 for 23, including the prize scalp of Martin Guptill (80 off 48 balls).
New Zealand again sat out Trent Boult and Tim Southee despite the fair bit of green on the pitch. They haven’t played a single game yet.
For Pakistan, Mohammad Hafeez sat out following a bone contusion in his femur, while fast bowler Wahab Riaz was down with a neck injury at practice.