New Zealand win series in tense, rain-hit finish
New Zealand 265 for 7 (Williamson 84, Guptill 82) beat Pakistan 290 (Azam 83, Hafeez 76) by three wickets (D/L method)
Scorecard and-ball-by-ball details
There was a large top-order stand and a middle-overs collapse from either team, and perhaps it was an umpiring error that separated the sides in the end. New Zealand needed 53 from 45 balls when play resumed after a rain delay. They got home with two balls to spare, and three wickets in hand - Mitchell Santner providing the blows to quell the Pakistan quicks' final charge.
Chasing a revised 263 from 43 overs, the match had been finely balanced in the home stretch before two gaffes in five balls put the hosts in control. The first was a botched chance in the deep, as Mohammad Hafeez spilled Luke Ronchi's mis-hit pull, after diving forward to get both hands to it. The next was a botched decision from umpire Billy Bowden, who failed to hear an edge off Corey Anderson's blade in the 39th over, leaving bowler Rahat Ali and his fielders in disbelief. If Pakistan had got that wicket, they would have had Santner batting alongside the out-of-sorts Ronchi, with 38 still needed off the last 24 balls. What they got instead was two successive sixes from Anderson, who had been suitably stoic during that appeal - not even chancing a glance back at the keeper.
Thirteen runs were scored off the next over, bringing the requirement to 13 runs from 18 balls, before Pakistan worked themselves up for another late push. Wahab bowled Ronchi at the end of a 41st over that cost only three runs. Then Mohammad Irfan had Anderson caught at deep midwicket, conceding only four runs from the penultimate over. The hosts now needed six from six.
As it turned out, New Zealand had reserved enough batting quality for the end. Santner drilled the first ball of the last over through the covers, and though Wahab responded with two dot-balls, Santner found a leg-side boundary to seal the match, and the series 2-0.
Before rains intervened after 35.3 overs, Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill had provided the perfect foundation for the chase of 291, hitting 84 and 82 respectively. New Zealand lost Brendon McCullum to Mohammad Amir's first ball, but their two form batsmen gave the chase a surging start. Guptill smoked Irfan high over long off in the third over, before Williamson hit boundaries on either side of the wicket, off the same bowler's next over.
Amir, though, seaming and slippery, made trouble for both batsmen. He hit Guptill's pad twice, raising voracious appeals, one of which Pakistan burned their review on. And he threatened the edge numerous times, angling the ball across the right handers, then seaming it back at them. Williamson had both edges beaten in the 10th over - the last of Amir's first spell, which yielded figures of 1 for 15 from five overs. The other bowlers had not been nearly as good. The hosts took 52 from the Powerplay despite Amir's parsimony.
The batsmen settled into smooth accumulation when the field relaxed. There were occasional eruptions, like when Williamson smoked a six and a four off Irfan in the 14th over, but the partnership merely bubbled for the most part. The run rate continued to be better than what was required. By the 20th over, New Zealand had hit 118, Guptill having crossed 50 and Williamson closing in on his.
It would eventually be part-time legspin that broke the partnership. Azhar Ali had gone for 16 in his first two overs, but kept himself on, and got Guptill to send an outside edge to point in the 26th over. By then the partnership had grown to 159 - a record for the second wicket for New Zealand, just two weeks after the same pair had also broken the overall T20 partnership record. Azhar had Williamson stumped in his next over as well, weakening New Zealand from 165 for 1 to 180 for 3. When Amir came back to trap Henry Nicholls in front soon after, Pakistan were back in the match. When Grant Elliott fell just as the hour-long rain delay began, New Zealand had slipped to 210 for 5.
Pakistan's innings had followed a similar pattern; two top order batsmen putting the team in control, before their dismissals in sight of centuries sparked a stutter from the middle order. Babar Azam struck 83 from 77 balls and Mohammad Hafeez made 76 from 60, hitting five sixes and as many fours. Together they made 134 runs for the third wicket, off 107 balls.
Coming together after Trent Boult and Matt Henry had removed the openers cheaply, Hafeez and Azam made the innings spark. Striking two fours apiece just after the Powerplay ended, they pushed the run rate above six in the 12th over, and it continued to creep north of there. Hafeez hit his second six when he ran at Santner and lifted him over the sightscreen in the 13th over. Azam largely preferred to keep the ball along the ground.
In between the big shots, there were ample runs into the outfield. Hafeez' big straight six to pass 50 in the 19th over brought another swell of boundaries. He hit two more sixes in quick succession - off Milne and Santner - inspiring Azam to venture a big straight blow as well. The 21st over, bowled by Santner, cost 20 runs, having yielded two sixes and a four, but he was kept in the attack, and broke the partnership in his next over. Hafeez attempted to hit a square six for the first time in his innings, and wound up mishitting his sweep to the deep square leg fielder.
Azam continued to reap regular boundaries alongside Shoaib Malik, with whom he consolidated Pakistan's advantage. The total crossed 200 in the 30th over, and the pair's partnership moved to 61 from 48 balls before Malik was caught behind, cutting a Boult ball close to his body. The wicket set off Pakistan's middle order stutter. Azam was soon out, also cutting, this time middling a Henry delivery directly to backward point, where Guptill claimed the third of his four catches in the innings.
Sarfraz Ahmed attempted to glue the back end of Pakistan's innings together, but kept losing partners. Milne blew the tail away with three late wickets, and the visitors were all out in the 48th over.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando