Anton Devcich was the unlikely hero with the ball as New Zealand beat Pakistan by 17 runs in the second T20 International in Dubai to draw the series 1-1.
Part-time spinner Devcich (2-16 from four overs) took the wickets of Sarfraz Ahmed (1) and Mohammad Hafeez (9) to stall Pakistan’s run chase and, despite the best efforts of Shahid Afridi (28 off 11), the hosts slumped to 127 all out in pursuit of 145.
The Black Caps bounced back immediately from their seven-wicket loss in the first T20I on Thursday, also in Dubai, and will lock horns with Pakistan once again in a five-match ODI series, beginning on Monday.
Devcich also showed his batting acumen in the UAE on Friday, after being promoted to the top of the order with regular opener Martin Guptill ruled out of the clash with a tight hamstring.
The 29-year-old and captain Kane Williamson played some powerful strokes to put on 49 for the first wicket in just shy of seven overs after being put into bat by Afridi.
But Pakistan stymied New Zealand with spin during the middle overs, Hafeez bowling Devcich (21) and Dean Brownlie (0) trapped lbw by a fuller delivery from Afridi.
Afridi skidded a quick ball on in the 10th over to castle Williamson (21), the New Zealand batsman dismissed after an entertaining 31-ball knock that contained three fours and a crunching six over deep fine leg.
Ross Taylor (7) was given a life early in his innings, dropped on two by wicketkeeper Sarfraz after feathering a ball from twirler Raza Hasan, but Hasan got his man shortly after, plucking the right-hander lbw.
Luke Ronchi joined Todd Latham at the crease with the tourists 78-4 and in dire need of some runs – and the gloveman rapidly set about adding to New Zealand’s tally.
Ronchi bludgeoned two sixes – one each over long on and long off – en route to a quickfire 31 from 19 balls, while Latham ably assisted his team-mate with a 22-delivery 26.
However, when Ronchi and Latham, who put on 38 as a partnership, departed to Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir respectively, New Zealand’s innings lost its momentum and they added just 17 runs from the final three overs.
The Black Caps seemed 20-odd runs short of par so required early inroads and they got one in the first over, albeit in dubious circumstances.
Devcich struck Sarfraz – Pakistan’s match-winner on Thursday with a blistering 76 – on the pads, but while the umpire raised his finger, replays showed the delivery was sliding a long way down leg side.
Hafeez wasted little time getting going after coming in at No 3, cracking Matt Henry for fours through fine leg and over cover, but he became Devcich’s second victim when he chipped a simple caught-and-bowled chance back to the spinner to exit for nine.
Henry then responded from his expensive first over by seizing the wicket of Haris Sohail (11), the batsman toeing one to Latham at deep square leg, and from there, Pakistan struggled to up the pace.
Opener Ahmed Shehzad and Saad Nasim put on 40 for the fourth wicket but it took them almost seven overs to do, with Devcich, Nathan McCullum and Daniel Vetorri all keeping things tight.
And when Pakistan did try to go big it cost them wickets – Nasim (19) hitting to Brownlie at cover off James Neesham’s medium pace and then Shehzad (33) having his bails dislodged by Vettori after missing a slog attempt.
Afridi walloped a pair of sixes off Vettori as Pakistan smashed 17 from the 15th over but Neesham bowled Umar Akmal middle stump (11) and Williamson then held on to a sunning catch tracking back from mid-on to pouch Anwar Ali (2) off Kyle Mills’ seam.
Pakistan still looked dangerous with Afridi in the middle but when the fan favourite went for one heave too many and was caught behind by Ronchi with his side on 121-8, the hosts’ hopes faded and Mills polished off the tail.