Haris Sohail hit a maiden half-century for Pakistan on his return to the ODI side, helping them to a three-wicket win over New Zealand in a thrilling first match of the series in Dubai.
Sohail (85no) put on a vital 110-run partnership with Shahid Afridi (61) for the seventh wicket as Pakistan recovered from 124-6 chasing 247 to win.
Daniel Vettori did the early damage, picking up two wickets as Pakistan stumbled to 52-4 in the 18th over.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq soon followed as did the in-form Sarfraz Ahmed, bringing Afridi to the crease.
It was a more reserved and mature knock from the big-hitting batsman in supporting Sohail, who celebrated his return to the side – his last ODI cap coming against Zimbabwe in August last year – by hitting the winning runs to see his side home with three balls to spare.
It added to a strong all-round showing for Sohail, as he bowled an economical spell of 0-39 from his 10 overs in New Zealand’s innings.
The Black Caps had posted a more than competitive 246-7 from their 50 overs with Ross Taylor (105no) scoring a record-tying third consecutive ODI hundred and becoming the first New Zealand batsman to do so.
He joins Pakistan’s Zaheer Abbas and Saeed Anwar as well as South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs, AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock in tying the record. But unlike them, Taylor had to wait over 10 months for his third ton, with a calf strain keeping him from playing since his last one against India in January.
Taylor walked in with his team struggling at 44-2 after 10 overs – the seven-foot Mohammad Irfan picking up both wickets, bowling some tight lines which Taylor too found tough to deal with initially.
But he built important partnerships with Luke Ronchi and Daniel Vettori with the team teetering at 111-5 and 155-6.
But it was Pakistan’s own lower-order recovery which won the game.The two teams travel to Sharjah next for the second game of the five-match series on Friday.