The Black Caps have butchered a glorious chance to open their season with a statement victory.

Chasing 149 for victory against Pakistan in their opening Twenty20 clash in the United Arab Emirates, the Black Caps were superbly poised at 79-1 with 8.3 overs remaining.

Then, the wheels fell off.

Colin Munro's dismissal started a slide, and Pakistan displayed why they are the world's best exponents in the shortest format, storming back to claim their 27th victory in their last 31 T20 games.


Their eventual margin of victory – two runs – overstates how close the result was, with the Black Caps having twice had dominant positions overturned by the wily Pakistanis.

In their first match under new coach Gary Stead, and first after a seven month hiatus, the Black Caps made a stellar start, leaving Pakistan scrambling at 14-2 after four overs.

Adam Milne and Tim Southee were varying their pace smartly, Ajaz Patel took his first international wicket on debut, and when Ish Sodhi's restrictive spin entered the fray, Pakistan were struggling to maintain a worthy pace.

Complicating matters were the UAE conditions. Knowing that the pitch was low and slow, Pakistan could afford to be patient. Knocks which would usually be little value in the format – 45 off 36 balls from Mohammad Hafeez, 34 off 26 from Sarfraz Ahmed and 24 off 21 from Asif Ali – proved handy as they rebuilt, yet Pakistan still remained short of a truly testing run rate.

New Zealand's fielding was a big reason for that. Glenn Phillips, Corey Anderson and Southee all claimed stellar catches as they regained ascendancy, but just as it looked as if Pakistan would fall well short of a competitive total, Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim blasted 20 off the last seven deliveries to muster 148-6.

Considering the average first innings at the ground was a mere 139, it was a deceptively challenging total to chase, but Munro looked at ease, underlining his status as one of the best batsmen in the format with a classy knock.

After a sedate start, the swashbuckling opener unleashed, smashing 58 from 42 balls, putting Pakistan in deep conversation, and deep trouble.

Whatever they discussed, it clearly worked, but perhaps more importantly, New Zealand's strategy failed.


With eight wickets in hand and big hitters waiting in the sheds, an aggressive approach was needed, but first Kane Williamson (11 off 16), and then Corey Anderson (9 off 12), proved wholly ineffective against the Pakistani spinners.

Stead had the right idea in sending out Colin De Grandhomme as a pinch hitter, but the powerful weapon was sold down the river by Ross Taylor – run out by a direct hit after Taylor attempted a ludicrous quick single.

Slowly but surely, New Zealand were being smothered by spin, as Hafeez (0-13 from three overs) and Shadab Khan (1-26 from four) had the visitors prodding and poking, and the required run rate steadily rising.

Munro credited the Pakistan spin options for keeping the Black Caps batsmen in check, but believes there are plenty of positives to take from the defeat.

"Their spinners came on after the powerplay and squeezed – you have to give them credit, they bowled really well, they know these conditions really well, it suited them tonight, and we got outplayed – just. We just couldn't capitalise through the middle.

"We haven't played international cricket for a long time but we didn't show that tonight. There are a few little areas where we can get a bit better, but I thought tonight was pretty good, despite not getting over the line."

The difference may have come in how Pakistan utilised the conditions to perfection, bowling straight and slow, and as the pressure increased as Anderson and Taylor's partnership could only add 34 from 27 balls. Whether they were batting too passively, or whether the Pakistan bowlers were simply too good, the result was the same - by the time the last over arrived, 17 runs were still required.

It would have been a record final over had they pulled it off, but in the end, late blows from Taylor and Southee were a microcosm of the match – good, but not quite good enough.

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