Pakistan's batting line-up is their weak link this tournament but its top order dominated New Zealand's bowling, leaving its own superior attack with a relatively easier task of defending a formidable total - one that was achieved successfully, albeit not without a scare. There was consolation for New Zealand: having brought down the margin of defeat to 13 runs, they ensured they reached a net run-rate high enough to take them through to the Super Eights.
Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed cashed in on a below-par performance from New Zealand in the field, putting together an impressive partnership during which their timing and apparent effortlessness in building on an aggressive opening stand stood out. The depth and variety in Pakistan's bowling, Hafeez's miserly spell and New Zealand's questionable tactics in the chase combined to put a target of 178 beyond reach, producing a winning start to Pakistan's tournament.
New Zealand had their chances. Hafeez decided to give his inconsistent batting the first go under sunny skies but in conditions where bowlers had assistance. Kyle Mills found early swing and should have had an initially-tentative Hafeez third ball, but Ross Taylor fluffed a straightforward chance at slip. Having dropped his Pakistan counterpart, the New Zealand captain was left flapping his lips when Hafeez launched Daniel Vettori for a six over long-on the next over.
Imran Nazir looked the more assured of the openers, using the depth of the crease well to dispatch Mills' two short deliveries for boundaries on either side of the ground, and continuing the treatment against Jacob Oram's half-trackers. Nazir fell in the last over of the Powerplay, caught and bowled by Tim Southee, but by then Hafeez had got into his groove with a couple of flowing drives and was about to be joined by a partner who wasted no time in keeping the momentum intact.
Tall, well-built and powerful, Jamshed was nowhere near brutal in his style of play. He didn't have to rely on sheer power to achieve what timing, placement and a sound technique did. Against Nathan McCullum's round-the-wicket line, he drove inside out, lofting the ball in the vacant space behind extra cover and clearing the ropes twice. He was equally wristy, clipping the ball square and through midwicket and slicing Mills over point for four. Mills was again unlucky, as a perfectly-positioned Rob Nicol at deep square leg spilled a chance off Jamshed, making matters worse by palming the ball for six when the batsman was on 42.
As Jamshed attacked at one end, Hafeez was content to rotate the strike, collecting runs down the ground, jabbing, steering and nudging the ball around for singles and even bludgeoning Nathan McCullum for six over midwicket. He was bowled trying to pull James Franklin in his first over but the 76-run stand with Jamshed had set an excellent launching pad.
New Zealand, though, pulled things back, dismissing Kamran Akmal and Jamshed in successive overs that yielded just 10. But Umar Akmal and the rest counterattacked in the last four. Even though Southee conceded just three in the 18th over, with third man and fine leg inside the circle, a generous dose of length, and misdirected, deliveries helped Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik score 42 in the last four.
New Zealand opened with Kane Williamson, a solid but less-attacking option, and played Vettori, busy, accumulative but not renowned as a big hitter, at No.3. The batting order suggested a strategy that relied heavily on the ammunition in the middle order to lead the surge in the late overs. Though that surge did come, and gave Pakistan plenty of anxious moments, it arrived at a time when the required-rate had reached 14 an over and, in hindsight, a touch too late.
Williamson made 15 in 13 but he had a fluent Rob Nicol at the other end. Nicol showed early intent, charging out to Sohail Tanvir and smacking him over long-on, and going over the top against Yasir Arafat with mid-off inside the circle. Pakistan bowled just one over of spin - from Hafeez, who conceded just 15 in his four-over spell - inside the Powerplay, and their slow bowlers stifled the innings once the field spread out.
Afridi mixed it up well and even found turn but Nicol was dislodged while attempting to cut one that went on straight. Williamson was run out shortly after, and the five overs after the Powerplay produced just 26 runs, with Vettori and Brendon McCullum at the crease. Saeed Ajmal's first over ended the deadlock with Brendon McCullum, who reverse-swept, stepped out and also cut well, picking him for boundaries. But with the asking rate climbing, the wickets came, Ajmal dismissing Vettori for 18 off 16 and Umar Gul yorking Brendon McCullum, who left his team with 70 needed off 29 balls. By then, Hafeez had completed his spell, with his first three overs only going for five runs.
It was too much to get in the end, despite Oram and Franklin's quick cameos and Taylor's assault of three fours in a row against Gul that brought down the equation to 22 off 9 balls. He was run-out brilliantly, courtesy a flat throw to the striker's end from the deep from Umar Akmal next ball, and the biggest threat in Pakistan's way, at that point, was eliminated.