Tactical fumbles cost New Zealand
It was a strange performance from New Zealand. The dropped catches and overthrows were only the start. The batting line-up was all muddled up in the chase, which at 178, was already a stiff one. Kane Williamson might be a potential New Zealand Test great, but he lacks the power that Twenty20 openers usually need. Rob Nicol, the other opener used today, is clearly not in the class of Brendon McCullum or Martin Guptill, whose hamstring injury precipitated the churn in the order.
As if the queer choice of openers wasn't enough, Daniel Vettori, of all batsmen, was promoted as high as No. 4, ahead of Ross Taylor, Jacob Oram and James Franklin. To top it all, Taylor came in as low as No. 6. By then, the Pakistan spinners had developed too much of a stranglehold on the game.
Taylor, though, said New Zealand had given Pakistan too much of a headstart with the bat, and that is where they lost the game. "We wanted a right-hand left-hand combination," Taylor said of the changed batting order. "We talked about Kane opening the batting before this game. It was no surprise to us. I don't think we lost it there.
"We dropped a few catches, leaked too many runs in the first 10 overs. The way we pegged it back was good. We could've been staring at something closer to 200."
Taylor was asked whether the absence of Guptill and McCullum dropping down to No. 3 left the opening combination too short of firepower. He said power was not the only thing required at the top. "It's about weighing up the best way to score runs on different surfaces. It's not just about bashing fours and sixes. It's also about minimising dot balls."
New Zealand were tied down by the Pakistan spinners, with Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez conceding only 75 runs in 12 overs for five wickets, four of them to Ajmal. In contrast, New Zealand, largely McCullum, had belted the Bangladesh spinners for 117 runs in 12 overs on Friday on the same pitch.
"They're world class spin bowlers," Taylor said of the Pakistan trio. "It was a totally different wicket. It didn't quite skid on like it did the other day. It spun a lot more, was a lot drier. They put the ball in the right areas and asked a lot of questions. Any time you're chasing more than 10 runs an over for a period of eight-nine overs, it's going to be a tough ask."
That New Zealand got so close to the target in the end means they are through to the Super Eights, where such slip-ups and tactical errors like today's could cost them dearly.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo