ABU DHABI: Pakistan defeated New Zealand by 2 runs in the first Twenty20 international played in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Pakistan, who won the toss and batted, scored 148-6. Chasing the target, New Zealand could score 146 at a loss of six wickets in 20 overs.
Mohammad Hafeez top-scored with a 36-ball 45 studded with five boundaries and two sixes while skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (34) and Asif Ali (24) were the other main contributors.
Hafeez and Ali added 67 for the third wicket after Pakistan were struggling at 10-2.
For New Zealand, fast bowler Adam Milne finished with 2-28.
Pakistan, who are on a roll after a 3-0 whitewash of Australia on Sunday, brought back left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi in place of another fast bowler Usman Shinwari.
New Zealand left out express paceman Lockie Ferguson and included both spinners Ish Sodhi and Ajaz Patel.
The remaining two matches are in Dubai on Friday and Sunday.
Pakistan maintained their top spot in the ICC T20 ranking with a 3-0 whitewash of Australia in Dubai on Sunday, cementing their place as the leading lights of the game’s shortest format.
Speaking to the media, Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed admitted New Zealand, two points behind Australia in the world rankings having played three fewer matches, will be a tougher opponent.
“They [New Zealand] have a strong team with ideal batsmen for T20 and a balanced bowling attack so we need to set the tone from the first game by winning it,” said Sarfraz.
He added, “We want to carry forward the winning momentum of the Australia series.”
Pakistan has won 10 of their 18 previous T20 internationals against New Zealand.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is also aware of the threat posed by Pakistan and said his team needed to be at their best to beat the top team.
“Obviously, Pakistan are a strong side,” said Williamson.
“That’s something we’ve known for a long time. The last time we played against them was at home in New Zealand and it was a tough series,” added Williamson of the January series Pakistan won 2-1.
“They are extremely strong in these conditions. Their rankings suggest that as well. They have had a lot of success in the format in recent times.”