Fakhar, Babar, Rizwan fifties ensure Pakistan clinch opener
Earlier Naseem Shah's five-wicket haul restricted New Zealand to 255
Pakistan 258 for 4 (Rizwan 77*, Babar 66, Fakhar 56, Bracewell 2-44) beat New Zealand 255 for 9 (Bracewell 43, Latham 42, Naseem 5-57, Mir 2-42) by six wickets
The Pakistan ODI method was on show. Stymie the opposition to a par total. Make them, and everybody else, believe that they are struggling in the chase despite a good show from the top order and then overhaul the target rather comfortably.
After Pakistan opted to bowl first, Naseem Shah picked up his second ODI five-for - in back-to-back games, having last played in August 2022 - to restrict New Zealand to 255 for 9. And then, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan stroked fine half-centuries to help Pakistan go 1-0 up in the three-match series in Karachi. Rizwan stuttered his way at the start and then suffered from cramps towards the end, before unleashing an assault of innovative measures on New Zealand to take the side home to a six-wicket win.
Chasing 256, Fakhar and Imam-ul-Haq got Pakistan off the blocks quickly. Imam hit his first ball through midwicket - aided by a misfield - for four as both batters feasted on debutant Henry Shipley's erring lines and lengths. All this before Imam looked to take on Michael Bracewell by skipping down the track and only managed to miscue one to mid-on.
Fakhar and Babar then added 78 off 103 balls for the second wicket to give Pakistan a strong base. While Fakhar looked at ease for most parts of his innings, Babar did have a tough time when Bracewell and Mitchell Santner were brought on after the first powerplay. Even though he slog-swept a six and pulled a four off successive deliveries off Santner, Babar was a tad unsure of the turn with Bracewell and Santner varying the flight, pace as well as the angle.
Babar was ruled out lbw when he missed an arm ball from Santner on 24, but he was reprieved on review, with the tracker showing the ball would have missed leg stump. He also tried a few uncharacteristic reverse sweeps early against Bracewell. At the other end, though, Fakhar was milking the singles as well as using the sweep to good effect and got to his half-century. However, the partnership was broken when Bracewell sneaked one through Fakhar's attempted slog to bowl him.
Babar and Rizwan then added 60 off 82 balls. It was slow going, with the sluggish track not really aiding strokeplay. Kane Williamson then brought the part-time offspinner Glenn Phillips on to keep a leash on scoring. Babar soon got to another half-century - his tenth fifty-plus score in the last 11 ODI innings - even as Pakistan managed to keep abreast of the asking rate. But soon, Phillips managed to hoodwink Babar and have him stumped down leg to mount the pressure.
Haris Sohail, who last played an ODI in 2020, then shifted the pressure back on to New Zealand with a 23-ball 32. Twice he thumped Tim Southee over deep midwicket to decisively shift the equation in Pakistan's favour. After he fell, Rizwan saw them home and stayed unbeaten on 77.
Naseem rattles New Zealand
Earlier, Naseem struck on the last ball of the first over as Devon Conway's back foot conspired to help the ball ricochet on to the stumps after he missed a flick. Williamson and Finn Allen were taking time to get the measure of the surface.
But Allen finally started to get the ball to ping off the meat of his blade as New Zealand looked to put the slowish start behind them. He first hit Naseem for two fours in an over before smashing Haris Rauf for a troika of fours. But with aid from an athletic diving catch from Agha Salman off Mohammad Wasim, Pakistan managed to see the back of Allen for 29 off 27 balls.
Meanwhile, Williamson had managed to get a fair measure of the surface and managed to hit some well-timed fours. However, a ripper from debutant legspinner Usama Mir ended his stay. Mir got one to drift and land on middle and leg before turning away to beat Williamson's bat and knock the top of middle stump.
Seeing the purchase - and turn - Mir managed to get, Babar pressed Mohammad Nawaz, and then the offspin of Salman, into service through the middle overs. New Zealand managed to score only 57 runs between overs 21 and 35, even though they lost just two wickets in the phase. Overall, the Pakistan spinners went for a combined 98 off 24 overs, picking up three wickets.
While Daryl Mitchell and Tom Latham managed to hang around and hit the occasional boundary, they couldn't really break free. They added 56 for the fourth wicket before Mitchell was done in by a Nawaz delivery that landed on middle and straightened enough to beat his outside edge and clatter into the stumps.
Latham was among the most fluent of the New Zealand batters and it seemed as if he would up the ante, given his strength against spin. But he only managed to pull a half-tracker from Mir straight to deep midwicket.
New Zealand were in a spot of bother after which Phillips and Bracewell added 66 off 75 balls. Despite not getting the big shots away regularly, the pair rotated the strike and helped the tourists get a base for a final-overs assault. So much so that in the face of mounting pressure, Phillips played out four dots before hitting Naseem for a massive six - the first of the game - in the 40th over.
But Naseem had the final laugh as he managed to dismiss both Phillips (37 off 53 balls) and Bracewell (43 off 42 balls) to hamper New Zealand at the death. He cleaned up Bracewell and Shipley off successive balls only for Southee to deny him a hat-trick. But a quick hand from Santner and Southee managed to see New Zealand cross the 250-run mark. It wasn't enough, eventually.
S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo