Christchurch: Mohammad Hafeez broke out of a form slump to score his first century and guide Pakistan to a 43-run win over New Zealand in the third one-day cricket international on Saturday, squaring the series at 1-1.
Hafeez scored 115, reaching his maiden century in his 62nd game, and captain Shahid Afridi smashed a half century from 19 balls as Pakistan made 293-7 in 50 overs after being sent in to bat.
Umar Gul took 2-31 and Hafeez 1-25 as Pakistan held New Zealand to 250-9 in reply, leveling the six-match series. New Zealand won the first match at Wellington by nine wickets and the second match at Queenstown was abandoned because of rain.
New Zealand's captain Ross Taylor — —filling in for regular captain Daniel Vettori who was rested — sent Pakistan in to bat, expecting his seamers to make the most of a green pitch.
"When we turned up the pitch was the same color as the outfield," Taylor said. "I've never seen a wicket that color a couple of hours before a match."
The appearance proved deceptive. Though Pakistan lost opener Ahmed Shehzad in the second over, batting proved much more easy than Taylor had expected.
Hafeez reached his half century off 65 balls and went on to build a series of productive partnerships, putting on 48 for the third wicket with Younis Khan (12) and 94 for the fourth with Misbah ul-Haq (35).
He reached his century in 175 minutes, providing the foundation of the Pakistan innings and allowing later batsmen — Afridi particularly — to accelerate the scoring.
"I wasn't thinking about the century. I was just concentrating on occupying the crease because I felt I'd missed out on a couple of opportunities in the test series and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity here," Hafeez said.
With Hafeez holding up his end, Afridi was able to lash out and he dashed to a brilliant half century from 19 balls, eventually making 65 from only 25 deliveries with five fours and five sixes.
Pakistan was helped by poor fielding from the New Zealand team. Brendon McCullum — the only specialist wicketkeeper in New Zealand's World Cup squad — showed the effects of recent inactivity in tests, dropping two catches and missing an easy stumping.
New Zealand also mismanaged its run chase, failing to establish a steady tempo of its innings and delaying its batting powerplay until its specialist batsmen had been dismissed.
Scott Stryis (46) and Kane Williamson (42) put on 81 for the fourth wicket in the best partnership of the innings but scored too slowly and left too large a task for the remaining batsmen.
By the time its heavier hitters came to the wicket, the run rate was beyond New Zealand.
Umar Gul bowled superbly to contain the home side, taking 2-31 from 10 overs while Hafeez took 1-25 from 5 and Wahab Riaz 2-43 from 8.