Kane Williamson: Pakistan's 'clinical' death cricket made the difference
The New Zealand captain felt his side's total was competitive in tricky conditions
New Zealand were 90 for 3 after 13 overs batting first in Sharjah on Tuesday night, while Pakistan were 75 for 4 at the same stage in the run chase. But the contrast between the sides' fortunes at the death with bat and ball - which saw Pakistan complete a five-wicket win with eight balls to spare - was the main difference between them, according to New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson.
"I think at one stage they required about maybe 52 off 30-ish ," Williamson said, asked what the turning point had been in a tight, scrappy game on a pitch with low bounce. "It was a tough surface to time the ball on, but someone like Shoaib Malik batting through and finishing off with a couple of lusty blows, and Asif [Ali] as well, who came in and hit the ball beautifully - much, much more sweet than anybody else on a tricky surface.
"Unfortunately, it didn't quite go our way. If we look at the opposition and how clinical they were at the death, not allowing us to time the ball, they were of the highest class. For us, it's trying to take some of those learnings and move forward."
Williamson said that he thought New Zealand's total of 134 for 8 had been "very competitive" at the interval on a tough batting pitch, but admitted that they might have been below par against a Pakistan side set up to chase that sort of score.
"[The pitch] was very difficult to start on," he said. "You wanted to try and identify some opportunities to have big overs because you're always going to have dot balls. It was very similar characteristics to what we saw throughout the IPL.
"I think we would have liked about another five or ten. To be fair, I thought we had a very competitive total at the first half, but in hindsight, you always want a few more. But there were a lot of really important roles that allowed us to get that competitive total, so I think there was a lot of good to take from it.
"It would be nice to cloth another boundary or two, but timing was quite challenging to come by. That's the nature of the beast. Sometimes you try and adapt to these different surfaces accordingly and try and make contributions for the team, and I think guys went out there today and really gave it a good shot."
Williamson had addressed New Zealand's last-minute withdrawal from their tour of Pakistan on security measures in the build-up to the match, insisting that there were "good relations" between the two sets of players. He reiterated his point after New Zealand's defeat, praising the "spirit" that Pakistan had played in and the atmosphere created by a partisan Sharjah crowd.
"They played in the right spirit, I believe, and a great spirit," he said. "They're a very competitive, proud cricketing nation, and they showed that tonight. They've been outstanding in the first couple of games of this tournament. I'm sure they'll be very, very competitive throughout the back end as well. Their hopes are high, no doubt.
"[New Zealand's withdrawal] was obviously a very unfortunate, disappointing situation for Pakistani cricket fans and the cricketers, a decision that was outside of the players' control. But all the guys were there looking forward to that series to start, and unfortunately it didn't happen, so it was very disappointing for all involved.
"It was nice to play in front of sort of pretty much a full house… it's been a long time coming although there weren't too many Kiwis in there, but still a lot of energy and a lot of enjoyment from the people that were watching. I think the guys enjoyed it. It was a close game and sort of pipped at the end to a large extent by some really high-class batting and sort of finishing in those death overs. That was, I think, the difference."
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98