The BLACKCAPS came up 13 runs short against Pakistan in an enthralling ICC World Twenty20 match in Pallekele today.
New Zealand still qualify for the Super Eight stages by virtue of a positive net-run-rate that cannot be overtaken by both sides in the Pool D despite one match to still to play.
Pakistan capitalised on good batting conditions, hitting 177 for six after winning the toss and electing to bat with the New Zealanders replying with 164 for nine in a valiant effort.
The late news that Martin Guptill was unfit to play due to a minor hamstring strain handed Kane Williamson an opportunity at the top of the order and along with Rob Nicol put on 53 for the first wicket.
Nicol looked at ease against the Pakistan pace attack, hitting 33 off 28, but the introduction of Shahid Afridi’s spin ended his stay at the crease as he was bowled out.
A mix up ended Williamson’s night on 15 when McCullum sent him back after a quick single was called for. His dismissal saw New Zealand slump to 54 for two and, in a tactical move, brought Daniel Vettori to the crease with the tall left-hander making 18 before he was caught on the boundary.
When Umar Gul bowled McCullum for 32, New Zealand’s hopes looked to slip away, but a burst of boundaries from James Franklin and Taylor invigorated the run chase.
Franklin’s contribution was 13 while Ross Taylor pounded a belligerent 26 off 11 runs after coming to the crease at 122 for five. Oram cracked 11 but the wickets kept tumbling and a final over from Ajmal that conceded just five runs and contained the wickets of Tim Southee (1) and Nathan McCullum (5) sealed the victory.
Ajmal was Pakistan’s best with four for 30.
Earlier, the Pakistani openers, Imran Nazir and Mohammad Hafeez, got their side off to a flyer with 42 runs coming off the first five overs.
It took a piece of brilliance from Tim Southee to break the partnership with the strike bowler taking a sharp catch off his own bowling to remove Nazir for 25.
It made little difference to the scoring rate with Nasir Jamshed picking up where Nazir left off, taking Pakistan through to 91 for one after ten overs.
The BLACKCAPS did peg things back for a period with wickets in the 14th, 15th and 16th over to have them 134 for four with 4.2 overs remaining. The last of those wickets was Jamshed, with the burly left-hander holing out off Vettori for his sides top score of 56 off 35.
Opener Hafeez was bowled by Franklin for 43 while Kamran Akmal and Umar Akmal were both caught in the deep off the bowling of Oram for three and 23 respectively.
It looked like the bowlers were getting on top but some powerful hitting from Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi propelled the total to 177.
Afridi was caught of the last ball of the inning to hand Tim Southee figures of 31 for two while Vettori returned a tidy 23 for one.