Napier: A superb knock of 93 by Misbah ul Haq helped Pakistan edge past New Zealand by 2 wickets in a thrilling encounter at Napier in the fourth one-day cricket international.
The stage was set for the batsmen on a typical McLean Park belter, but New Zealand's lower order were left to deliver the punch-lines as the hosts posted 262 for seven after winning the toss.
With scores of 300-plus only considered par in these conditions, there was a feeling New Zealand were always off the pace and so it proved but only just as the tourists eventually reached 264 for eight with an over remaining. They take a 2-1 lead into the fifth of six matches, at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Thursday.
New Zealand's effort with the ball or in the field could not be faulted.
They were in the match when Scott Styris grabbed a quick double to reduce Pakistan to 84 for three in the 18th over, and again when Daniel Vettori snared the key wickets of Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi in three balls to have the tourists 198 for six in the 43rd.
Ross Taylor took a screamer of a catch rising high at first slip and the ground fielding was tidy.
But they needed something extra special and it did not arrive, not from a New Zealander anyway.
Misbah-ul-Haq, New Zealand's nemesis all summer, was magnificent in the run chase.
He was circumspect at the start and produced the big shots when they were required, ending unbeaten on 93 from 91, his highest score from 62 matches rightfully earning him the man-of-the-match award.
He combined with Younis Khan to provid the substantial partnership Pakistan required with 84 for the fourth wicket, added 40 valuable late runs with Abdul Razzaq, then watched as No 10 Sohail Tanvir took 14 runs from the penultimate over bowled by Tim Southee.
New Zealand simply did not have enough runs and it was left to James Franklin and Nathan McCullum to drag them up to a semi-respectable total after the top order fell to pieces.
Franklin top scored with 62 from 75 balls, the Wellington allrounder only a late addition to the team after opening batsman Jesse Ryder was ruled with a finger injury.
He featured in two key partnerships, putting on 62 runs for the sixth wicket with Brendon McCullum, who scored 37 off 39 balls, and 64 runs for the seventh wicket with Nathan McCullum, who was unbeaten on 53 from 58 balls.
The trio were responsible for lifting New Zealand to a defendable total after they had been 79 for five.
New Zealand were struggling after 40 overs but they added 48 runs in the five-over power play, from the 41st over, and totalled 88 runs from the final 10 overs as Nathan McCullum mixed guile with power to reach his first half century. He and Daniel Vettori (13 not out) put on 57 unbeaten runs from 39 balls for the eighth wicket.
New Zealand started brightly enough with openers Jamie How and Martin Guptill keen to make use of splendid conditions for batting and racing through to 37 without loss in six overs.
What followed was simply unfathomable. Three wickets fell for four runs in 11 balls as the top order self destructed.
Guptill looked a million dollars getting to 21 before he steered an innocuous delivery from Wahab Riaz straight to Younis Khan at short midwicket.
How made his way comfortably through to 13 before he pulled a long hop from Abdul Razzaq directly to Umar Akmal on the deep square leg boundary. Akmal did not have to move and How trod off in utter disbelief as his error.
Styris and Kane Williamson attemped to consolidate, adding 24 runs in eight overs before they both had their own brain fades.
Styris called Williamson through for a run that wasn't there, but was turned back and run out by some distance. Williamson imploded soon after by dancing down the wicket and hitting offspinner Hafeez straight down Khan's throat at long on.
Left-armer Wahab Riaz was the chief wicket-taker for Pakistan with three for 51 from 10 overs, while Styris was New Zealand's best with the ball, taking three for 40 from nine. Vettori and Hamish Bennett both had credible returns of two for 48 from 10.
New Zealand 262 for 7 (Franklin 62, N McCullum 53*, Riaz 3-51)
Pakistan 264 for 8 (Misbah 93*, Styris 3-40)
Result Pakistan won by two wickets
MOM Misbah ul Haq (Pakistan)