A sloppy Black Caps side have saved their worst for last, rolled for 92 in the fifth and final Twenty20 against Pakistan.
The hosts were chasing a clean sweep at Hagley Oval and that aim seemed well within their sights at the halfway mark, a restrictive bowling effort having set up a chase of 135.
But after beginning the series by smashing their fifth-highest total in T20 internationals, they ended it by collapsing to their eighth-lowest in a 42-run defeat.
Pakistan’s 134-8 represented the lowest 20-over total any team had successfully defended against the Black Caps, who were bogged down on a pitch that offered plenty of turn.
Part-timer Iftikhar Ahmed snared 3-24, having previously taken four wickets in 53 T20Is, while fellow tweakers Mohammad Nawaz and Usama Mir added three more scalps.
Pakistan were rewarded for their decision to bat first on the same surface used for Friday’s fourth game, exemplifying the difficulty of the batting conditions during their own innings.
They lost only one wicket in the opening overs - 19-year-old debutant Haseebullah Khan removed by Southee for a three-ball duck - but had Mark Chapman to thank for that.
The fielder twice dropped Babar Azam from chances he should have held but, given the way the No 3 was approaching his innings, keeping him in the middle wasn’t the worst outcome.
Azam almost appeared to be batting for time, seeing Pakistan end the powerplay on 29-1, and had crawled to five from 16 when Chapman gave him a third life.
Glenn Phillips eventually succeeded where his teammate had failed, getting a big hug from Chapman to finally put Azam (13 off 24) out of his misery.
Pakistan staggered to 52-2 at the halfway mark before Fakhar Zaman (33 of 16) proved an exception in the match, smacking four sixes before mistiming another big shot as Tim Southee (2-19) reapplied the brakes.
Tim Southee celebrates a wicket during the fifth T20. Photo / Photosport
Once Nawaz was caught and bowled by Ish Sodhi (2-22) and Mohammad Rizwan (38 off 38) had fallen the next ball to Matt Henry (2-30), any hopes of a formidable total had been dashed. It turned out to matter little, as both Black Caps openers fell inside five overs.
Recalled for his first T20 since last September - and opening for the first time since his debut series in 2021 - Rachin Ravindra lasted only two balls before being dismissed by Nawaz.
The spinner completed his allotment inside the opening 10 overs as New Zealand matched their opponents by stumbling out of the blocks. The wicket of player-of-the-series Finn Allen (22 off 19) certainly didn’t help, removed by an excellent low catch by Haseebullah as the hosts ended the powerplay on 35-2.
When Will Young was caught in the deep to give Nawaz a second, the Black Caps were in a spot of bother with 81 more needed from the final 10 overs. And when Chapman’s rotten day was exacerbated by being run out for one - a dismissal for which Tim Seifert assumed blame - the chase was again in the hands of Phillips.
Seifert (19 off 30) was unable to atone for his error, trapped in front by Iftikhar, before Mitchell Santner came and went as the required rate rose above 10.
Still 66 runs away, the Black Caps were into the bowlers and they offered no assistance, Henry and Sodhi opting to attack Iftikhar but combining for two runs while Phillips watched helplessly at the other end.
The hosts went 49 balls without a boundary before Phillips ended the drought with successive blows, but was fortunate to avoid being caught while looking for a third. His luck ran out the next ball as Shaheen Shah Afridi essentially ended all hope.
Kris Shannon’s recap of game four
After blowing away Pakistan in the first three T20s, the Black Caps finally encountered some adversity on Friday night.
Once Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips got going, the final result was the same.
The middle-order batters combined for an unbroken 139-run stand for the fourth wicket at Hagley Oval, hauling their side out of an early hole and powering them to a fourth straight victory.
Chasing 159 on a surface that, unlike those earlier in the series, offered some assistance to the bowlers, New Zealand had been reduced to 20-3 in the third over.
But with the aid of generous fielding from Pakistan, Mitchell (72no off 44) and Phillips (70no off 52) rendered that a mere blip in an otherwise ascendant week, completing a seven-wicket win with 11 balls to spare.
Their match-winning stand was the highest fourth-wicket partnership for the Black Caps in T20s, the pair consolidating before accumulating and, eventually, attacking.
It all proved too much for the tourists, who might have been quietly content with their 158-5, given teams batting first in T20Is at Hagley had an average score of 162.
Mohammad Rizwan (90no off 63) took almost sole responsibility for reaching that competitive score, the world’s third-ranked batsman having previously collected 56 runs in three innings.
Rizwan lost his partner in the second over as, after the Black Caps won their first toss, Matt Henry found the edge of Saim Ayub. Henry (2-22) was well assisted by Lockie Ferguson (2-27) as the seamers found some movement, though Rizwan pressured Adam Milne to hit him off his line.
Pakistan ended the powerplay on 51-1 before Milne responded by getting a false shot from Babar Azam, removing the key man for fewer than 50 for the first time this series. His departure combined with Mitchell Santner’s introduction to change the course of the innings.
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