Stand-in captain Ross Taylor expressed satisfaction at having won the final ODI in Auckland, to end 3-2 after Pakistan wrapped the series up in Hamilton. New Zealand made ample use of the small Eden Park boundaries and a terrific batting pitch to make 310, before bowling Pakistan out for 254 in the 45th over. The host's top order finally fired after disappointing showings in the three previous matches and Pakistan never quite recovered from three early strikes to launch a meaningful challenge on New Zealand's total.
"It's been a tough six months, but to finish on that note was very satisfying," Taylor said. "Hopefully we can take some momentum into the World Cup and get a couple of victories in the warm up games."
The New Zealand players endured a gruelling team meeting following their loss to Pakistan in Hamilton on Thursday. Team management and support staff had apparently not been present at the meeting and the players had talked openly about the team's recent failures and the need to turn it around before the World Cup for an hour and a half in the Seddon Park dressing room.
"We're not going to talk about what we said in the meeting," Taylor said. "We wanted to improve our performance on the field and a few different things off it and the team went a long way to achieving how we want to play. 300 is normally just the par in New Zealand, so to get 310 today was very satisfying."
New Zealand hadn't been totally outclassed during the series, having lost three matches by a reasonably narrow margin, but the team had lacked a standout individual performance - which Jesse Ryder provided in the sixth ODI with a 93 ball 107. "We were very close in the other matches. We just didn't step up and players got out at crucial times. In the two matches we won, players did step up - so it shows that when we do that we're a competitive side."
Brendon McCullum returned to his familiar opening role, having spent most of the series lower down the order, in order to take advantage of the batting Powerplay. The experiment had not worked for New Zealand however, as McCullum made just 58 runs in three innings, proving ineffective as a lower order pinch hitter. Ryder had moved to number three to make room for McCullum's return to the top, and Taylor claimed the top three could remain unchanged going into the World Cup.
"Brendon's always going to be opening now with Jesse doing so well. We had a meeting last night and thought of having Brendon up there. We also wanting keep Martin as an opener so it was either Brendon or Jesse batting at three."
Ryder also expressed a desire to stay put in the batting order, following his century. "Going forward to the World Cup I don't really want to change now, so we'll see what happens when we get over there," said Ryder. "There's been a lot of change over the last six games and wherever I'm put it's my job to play as well as I can for the team. Leading up to the World Cup I guess it will be Baz and Guppy opening."
Scott Styris and Nathan McCullum also pitched in during the end overs with two blistering half-centuries. The pair added 120 from 84 balls and plundered 71 runs from the batting Powerplay to propel New Zealand beyond the 300. "Scotty and Nathan took their time early on but it shows you they can catch up later on," Taylor said. "We need someone to step up in those crucial death overs [in the World Cup] and with the ball reversing in the subcontinent, it won't be an easy time."
Taylor was also impressed with the way his bowlers handled the final overs of the match, as Shahid Afridi attempted to blast his side home, and claimed that it's a crucial aspect of their game heading into the World Cup. "It's an area we haven't performed as well as we would have liked. The bowling up front has been quite consistent over the last 6-12 months but the death bowling we haven't quite mastered. With the rough wickets in the subcontinent, reverse swing is an area we need to get better at. But the way Tim Southee and Hamish Bennett bowled was outstanding. In the other games we became a little bit predictable, but today we just tried to change it up."
Ryder was also pleased to end his bad run with the bat. Ryder had failed to score several times during the tour, making three noughts in a row during the Tests, and being run out before facing a delivery in the last match at Seddon Park. His manic knock laid the foundation for New Zealand's innings as he exploited Eden Park's short boundaries to hit seven fours and six sixes.
"It has been a frustrating series for me with all those ducks under my belt. Today batting at three, I just wanted to go out there and express myself and I just backed my ability. I was feeling good after that first game in Wellington, and to score a hundred today just topped it off before the World Cup."