It took seven matches, but Sarfraz Ahmed's men have finally turned up, and finally ended New Zealand's perfect home record this season. The T20I series will go into a decider at Mount Maunganui on Sunday. Having chosen to bat, Pakistan never let up attacking through their innings, posting 201 in 20 overs. When New Zealand came out to chase, there was no one, despite their well-deserved reputation, to carry the innings through, and Pakistan clinched victory by 48 runs.
It was two years and 14 matches since Pakistan last defeated New Zealand in any format, anywhere in the world. As it happened, that also came in a T20I, and at this ground. Something about Eden Park had got Pakistan's tails up from the very beginning when they came out to bat,
intent to put on a display worthy of modern T20 cricket. Fakhar Zaman and Ahmed Shehzad, mysteriously left out for the first game, were aggressive from ball one. It took them a mere 1.5 overs to eclipse the highest opening partnership on tour, which had stood at a wretched 14.
New Zealand bowled short in the first six overs, aware of their vulnerability against the short straight boundaries at this ground. But Fakhar and Shehzad were brilliant at manipulating the fielders and finding gaps, with 11 boundaries coming off a Powerplay that produced 57 runs.
Ish Sodhi's first over gave up just four runs, but this was no momentum swing. Fakhar unloaded on Mitchell Santner, smashing him for three
huge sixes in an over that cost 22. New Zealand's bowlers began to get a bit fuller, which allowed Pakistan to exploit the straight boundary, a
flat six onto the sightscreen leaving no doubt about Shehzad's intentions.
He was caught at long-on attempting the same shot next ball, but New Zealand never really found a way to check Pakistan's momentum all innings. It wasn't just ugly slogging; the innings was replete with gorgeous straight drives. Sarfraz looked in sweet touch, a classy drive over
extra cover off Sodhi - who was New Zealand's best bowler - the pick of the lot.
Wickets never appeared to affect the run rate, and even when Ben Wheeler got two wickets in the 19th over, Pakistan continued to press. Even Trent Boult wasn't spared, and when Babar Azam pulled him for four off the final ball, he brought up the 200 as well as his fifty, bookending Pakistan's dominance in the first half.
If the crowd was hoping for a competitive match at last, they were to be disappointed. New Zealand's approach from the start wasn't quite what was needed in a chase of 202, Martin Guptill and Colin Munro unusually cautious. It might have been the pressure of the chase, but
Pakistan's bowlers stepped up their game too, both in terms of pace and intensity. Mohammad Amir trapped Munro plumb in front for 1, and in the very next over Kane Williamson got a leading edge, dismissed for a golden duck. The shock of that appeared to puncture New Zealand in a way they never recovered from, and as the asking rate began to climb, wickets started to fall regularly.
All of Pakistan's bowlers registered in the wickets column, but the most encouraging aspect to this performance was the visitors' notably improved effort in the field. There was a commitment and application that had been missing for the first six games. Several runs were saved, and regular direct hits meant uncertainty crept into New Zealand's running. It also brought about a sensational run-out, Haris Sohail nailing a throw with just one stump to aim at, catching Tom Bruce well short.
Auckland is home to the largest Pakistani diaspora in New Zealand, and that showed with the support for Sarfraz's side in the stands. If they had to put in one performance this series, this was the place to do it. New Zealand's lower order offered some resistance, but there was never a question of chasing down that total, and the second half of the innings was simply a celebration of Pakistan opening their account on this tour. New Zealand were bowled out with nine balls still to go, and, against all odds, Pakistan go into this tour's final game looking to come away with the T20 trophy as well as the number one ranking in the format.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000