New Zealand 266 for 9 (Taylor 80, Latham 68, Shadab 4-38, Afridi 4-46) beat Pakistan 219 (Sarfraz 64, Imad 50, Ferguson 3-36, Boult 3-54) by 47 runs
It's a complete dozen, now, and really, there was no need to wonder if it might have been any different. New Zealand's 12th successive win against Pakistan was sealed comfortably, despite the visitors playing largely ordinary cricket for much of the contest. Kane Williamson's men started poorly, fell away towards the end of the innings, and dropped in intensity in the last half of the second innings. And yet, but for a few fleeting overs when Sarfraz Ahmed and Imad Wasim put together a damage-control partnership, the result today was never in doubt.
It was a 130-run partnership between Ross Taylor and Tom Latham in the first innings that set New Zealand on their way to 266, the kind of score that Pakistan have struggled to run down in the UAE. And then a scintillating hat-trick in the third over of the chase from Trent Boult - fresh from paternity leave - ripped chunks out of Pakistan's top order and effectively killed the game off. The wounds he inflicted on Pakistan were ultimately destined to prove fatal, and condemned Pakistan to a slow, painful death over the 47 overs that followed. Pakistan limped on towards 219 before New Zealand put the official seal of approval on a win that had been several hours in the making.
Taylor and Latham - whose record in Asia stacks up with the best - had turned the tables on Pakistan with their century partnership. But all that changed when Shadab took three wickets in an over, and was desperately unlucky to miss out on a hat-trick of his own. Imad followed by removing Taylor for 80, and from being set up for a big finish, the visitors suddenly found their tail-enders trying to bat out the overs. Only a partial recovery, thanks to big-hitting by Ish Sodhi and Tim Southee, got New Zealand over 260, but they still ended up slightly short of what they were set for half an hour earlier.
That they didn't have to pay for it was thanks to the heroics of Boult. After the out-of-form Fakhar Zaman played on, Babar Azam edged behind trying to reach for a wide yorker. Reduced to 8 for 2, Mohamad Hafeez walked out to find Boult - who had arrived in the UAE just three days prior - on a hat-trick.
That's when he chose to produce the best delivery of the lot, an inswinger that crashed into Hafeez's pads. He burnt a review, trying to deny the left-armer the hat-trick to no avail, and Pakistan had lost their top order cheaply in face of a daunting chase.
From there onwards, there were a number of workmanlike efforts by a number of batsmen who tried to revive Pakistan, but they were simply too far off the pace. Shoaib Malik and Imam-ul-Haq put on 63 before falling within an over of each other, and when Shadab Khan was erroneously given out (he missed the ball by almost a foot) caught behind, it brought Imad and Sarfraz Ahmed together for one last hurrah.
To their credit, they did about as much as they could have, given the circumstances, but the scale of the task they had been left was simply insurmountable. Not even a 103-run partnership, achieved in relatively quick time, was enough to put Pakistan in the ascendancy, and as soon as Sarfraz dragged de Grandhomme on, the contest looked all but over.
Batting first after winning the toss, the early wickets of the openers immediately consigned New Zealand to grinding out the middle overs, and Kane Williamson did that for a while with Taylor. The spinners were being negotiated well enough, and with Imad not as menacing as he had been in the T20Is, they found a regular outlet to keep the score ticking along. But then Shadab bowled a most un-Shadab delivery, a long-hop, only to see Williamson play an equally uncharacteristic shot to give short midwicket an easy catch. It was awful cricket all round, but the hosts came out of it chuffed with themselves.
Taylor struggled to get going initially, and his frustration manifested itself in controversial fashion after he seemed to question if Mohammad Hafeez was bending his arm beyond the legal limit after his first over. It unleashed outrage from Sarfraz, who complained to the umpire and engaged with Taylor several times. The batsman wasn't willing to let go as Sarfraz persisted with Hafeez, who chose not to get involved, and for a while there was real edge to the way the game progressed.
With Taylor and Latham in control and a slew of big hitters to come, Shadab found turn and trapped Latham and Henry Nicholls in front of successive deliveries, with Pakistan's kryptonite Colin de Grandhomme edging to first slip two balls later. Imad then bowled Taylor in the next over to deprive New Zealand of recognised batsmen in the last seven overs, and Pakistan swarmed all over the visitors.
Pakistan should have polished them off soon after, but Ish Sodhi - who had before today averaged 2.16 in ODIs - bailed his side out with an unlikely cameo. Three glorious sixes off arguably Pakistan's best death bowler Hasan Ali by the pair gave New Zealand 23 off his last two as they undid some of the damage caused by Shadab. Sodhi scored 24 (until today he had a total of 13 ODI runs), and even Trent Boult smashed Junaid Khan for six off the last ball to haul New Zealand to 266. It required 50 runs off the last five overs by the tail against a fearsome bowling line-up.
It was more than enough to do for Pakistan, who were hoping to show what transpired in the Asia Cup was a one-off. Instead, Pakistan will be desperate to ensure it doesn't come across as if the real one-off was the Champions Trophy 17 months ago.