An unbeaten 93 by Misbah-ul-Haq paved the way for a narrow two-wicket Pakistan victory over New Zealand with an over to spare in their fourth one-day international yesterday.
The win put Pakistan 2-1 up in the six-match series with one game abandoned as both sides fine-tune ahead of this month’s World Cup.
Set a modest target of 263 to win on a track described by captain Shahid Afridi as “heaven for a batsman,” Pakistan appeared to have misjudged their run chase, despite Misbah’s heroics, as the match headed for a tense finish.
However, tailender Sohail Tanvir took control, arriving in the middle with two overs remaining, two wickets left and 13 runs required to secure a slim victory.
Sohail did not give Misbah a chance to reach his century as he smacked 14 off Tim Southee in the penultimate over to settle the outcome.
It was a match with a familiar feel for New Zealand as their specialist batsmen failed on a track where 300 is considered par, and it was left to the middle and tail order to bolster the tally.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori had reason to feel his decision was justified as Martin Guptill (21) and Jamie How (13) raced to 40 in the seventh over.
However, the innings soon fell apart in the face of a lethal spell from Wahab Riaz and Abdul Razzaq.
In the space of two overs, New Zealand lost three wickets for four runs and then stumbled to 79 for five. Brendon McCullum and James Franklin breathed life back into the innings, cracking 62 in 12 overs.
Franklin, a late addition to the New Zealand side after Jesse Ryder pulled out with a finger injury just before the match, top scored for New Zealand with 62 in 75 balls.
Nathan McCullum ended unbeaten on 53, while his brother Brendon hit 33 off 39 deliveries.
In reply, Ahmed Shehzad (42) and Mohammad Hafeez (12) made a brisk start for Pakistan, but the pace slowed once Shehzad was dismissed by New Zealand’s main wicket-taker Scott Styris, leaving the tourists at 2-71 in the 14th over.
Misbah, the man of the match, crafted a careful 93, but failed to push the run rate up too fast.
He put on 89 in 20 overs with Younis Khan (42) for the fourth wicket and added 21 in five overs with Umar Akmal (10).
Entering the batting power-play with eight overs remaining, New Zealand sensed they were still in with a decent shout of winning the match.
Their chances were boosted further after Vettori removed Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi leaving Pakistan requiring 62 runs from the final 42 deliveries.
However, Misbah and Abdul Razzaq took the initiative back in the next over, belting 17 off Tim Southee, before Sohail took to the crease to seal the outcome.
Medium-pacer Scott Styris was the most successful New Zealand bowler with three for 40 off nine overs, while Wahab Riaz took three for 51 from 10 overs for Pakistan and Abdul Razzaq finished with one for 16 off seven.
The fifth match in the series is in Hamilton tomorrow.