New Zealand drew level in their five-match ODI series with Pakistan after Kane Williamson’s century helped them to a thrilling seven-run victory in the fourth match in Abu Dhabi.
Skipper Williamson (123) crunched 12 fours in a brutal 105-ball knock as The Black Caps reached 299-5 from their 50 overs, with openers Martin Guptill (58) and Dean Brownlie (42) also chipping in.
Younus Khan (103) scored an excellent hundred to keep Pakistan in the match after they had slipped to 82-4 but despite that, and some Shahid Afridi boundary smacking, the hosts fell just short, meaning Friday’s final clash, also in Abu Dhabi, will be a decider.
There was sombre mood at the start of the game following Tuesday’s tragedy in the Pakistani city of Peshawar where 148 people, mainly children, were killed by the Taliban at a military-run school.
Both sides wore black armbands and observed a minute silence, while it was also announced that all proceedings from the fourth one-day international will go the families of the victims.
Williamson won his first toss of the series in Abu Dhabi and, after electing to bat, would have been pleased with the output of Guptill and Brownlie, who put on 81 for the first wicket from 100 balls.
The captain, standing in for the rested Brendon McCullum, entered the fray after Brownlie was dismissed by Pakistani skipper Shahid Afridi and added 44 with Guptill before the opener was caught behind.
Williamson shared a partnership of 63 with Ross Taylor and plundered a further 39 with Corey Anderson, while his tandem with Tom Latham – ended when Williamson was bowled by Mohammad Irfan off the last ball of the innings – yielded 72 as New Zealand put on 91 in the final 10 overs.
Pakistan lost Ahmed Shehzad for a duck in their first over and while Nasir Jamshed and Khan put on 49 for the second wicket, their run chase appeared to be petering out when Jamshed (30), Mohammad Hafeez (3) and Haris Sohail (13) were sent to the hutch.
However, Khan – who had voiced reservations about whether the match should take place in the wake of the Peshawar tragedy – shared a stand of 90 with Umar Akmal (29) and then played passenger as Afridi (49) walloped five fours and two sixes from just 25 balls before he edged to keeper Luke Ronchi.
Khan, though, was eventually castled by spinner Daniel Vettori with Pakistan needing a further 46 to triumph and while Sarfraz Ahmed (18 off 13 balls) Anwar Ali (20 off 13) and Sohail Tanvir (11 off 12) made it nervy for New Zealand, Afridi's men were unable to reach their target.