Nicholls leads revival to sink Pakistan
New Zealand 280 for 8 (Nicholls 82, Santner 48, Henry 48, Amir 3-28, Anwar Ali 3-66) beat Pakistan 210 ( Azam 62, Hafeez 42, Boult 4-40, Elliott 3-43) by 70 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
New Zealand were on the ropes at 99 for 6, and already missing their three most experienced players, were further hamstrung by an injury to Mitchell McClenaghan. Yet, as they have done time and again at home in recent years, they swung, scrapped and willed themselves to a 70-run victory, finding heroes in unlikely places, and fielding impeccably in defence of their 280 for 8.
That score was founded on a measured 82 from Henry Nicholls, in just his second ODI series. Mitchell Santner had lent him a hand in the rebuild, adding 48, but the surprising stars of the innings batted at No. 9 and 10. Matt Henry and McClenaghan's 73-run ninth-wicket partnership came off 33 balls. The rollicking stand, which featured six sixes and as many fours, propelled New Zealand to a competitive score on a quick, bouncy surface.
New Zealand lost McClenaghan's services with the ball when an Anwar Ali bouncer burst through the gap in his helmet and struck him in the left eye. The hosts took the field again as McClenaghan was receiving stitches on his eyebrow, but they hardly missed him. Grant Elliott, who may not have expected to bowl all his overs in normal circumstances, made the initial breakthroughs with the ball, dismissing both openers and taking a middle-order scalp later, to finish with figures of 3 for 43 from his full quota.
Pakistan's seamers shone brightly in the first quarter of the match, as Anwar Ali, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Irfan all sent down intense spells, but all the ground they earned in those initial bursts was ceded by the end of New Zealand's innings. Amir was also seen hobbling off the field part-way through his eighth over, but did later return to bat.
There was a good 62 by Babar Azam, in the chase, but having moved at barely three runs an over in the Powerplay, Pakistan were always chasing a rising required rate. They lost wickets through the middle overs, and the lower order was cleaned up by Trent Boult, who took 4 for 40. Pakistan were eventually dismissed for 210 in the 46th over.
Nicholls' innings was notable for its maturity. He was dropped once early, but seemed a clever operator once he settled down, finding square boundaries, then settling into a steady beat of singles and twos. He held firm through the hosts' many stutters, and only fell searching for quick runs in the 45th over, having struck seven fours.
Henry's unbeaten 48 off 30 balls was much more manic. He combined with McClenaghan and launched the charge in the 46th over, when they reaped three sixes in four balls off Wahab Riaz's short deliveries. The rest of the innings was a mix of clean striking and streaky, edged boundaries, as Pakistan failed to consistently bowl yorkers. McClenaghan even ventured two lap-scoops off Anwar, both of which brought boundaries. His part in the mayhem was 31 off 18.
Each of Pakistan's quicks had played his role in the early surge. Irfan dismissed Martin Guptill with a bouncer, and Amir followed it up, dismissing Tom Latham with a short ball. Anwar Ali's inswing inflicted a double-blow to the middle order: Kane Williamson edged a delivery onto his stumps to end a typically indifferent innings, before a leaden-footed Elliott saw the ball pass between bat and pad to splay his own stumps, two balls later. Wahab, while wicketless, occasionally rattled the batsmen with pace.
Nicholls grafted smartly following those losses, shelving the expansive drives he had played earlier in the innings, but his partners continued to desert him. Amir matched Anwar Ali's fire in his second spell, having Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi edging behind in quick succession. His teammates greeted him warmly at each breakthrough.
Santner had his defensive technique tested early on, but was soon driving and pulling confidently. Pakistan had set fire to New Zealand's innings at his arrival, but he and Nicholls put out those flames with their 79-run stand, before the tail came good in explosive fashion.
The pursuit began sedately; Pakistan's openers managing only 23 from the first seven overs before a handsome leg-side six from Azhar Ali enlivened the start a little, if briefly. But he was out top-edging a heave against Elliott soon after, and when Ahmed Shehzad holed out to the same bowler, Pakistan's crawling beginning was not even for the security of wickets.
The scoring sped up after the Powerplay, but the acceleration was too gradual. By the end of the 15th over, the require rate had risen to 6.6. Azam and Mohammad Hafeez put on a sage 81-run stand off 93 balls to move Pakistan to a reasonable position - Azam especially quick to crash the short balls to the fence - but the required rate only kept heading north. When Hafeez was swallowed at long-on for 42 in the 27th over, Pakistan still needed 163 from 141 balls. Sohaib Maqsood continued his poor tour with a 16-ball 10, before Azam himself fell, having passed fifty. Aiming to make something of a flagging chase, he tried to pull a short Anderson ball, and sent the top edge to midwicket.
There was a sliver of hope as long as Sarfraz Ahmed was at the crease, but having hit three fours in his busy innings, he cracked a full delivery to deep midwicket in the 43rd over. He had made 30 from 29. With him went any real chance of a Pakistan victory.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando