The New Zealand White Ferns’ unbeaten history against Pakistan in both One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals is intact after they dug themselves out of trouble to claim the 2016 tour finale T20 by 14 runs.
It took a determined fightback from the middle and lower order with the bat, sharp bowling, and the best fielding performance of the entire contest to do it, but the result was a clean record — and bonus snippets of heart-warming history in the Nelson sunshine.
Conditions were warm and windy as Suzie Bates won the toss and batted in the first ever bilateral Twenty20 between the two countries, but a horror start soon saw her side needing to fight hard together to post a competitive total.
Pakistan’s attack struggled at times with the unfamiliar stiff breeze, Iram Javed opening proceedings with three wides before Bates was caught for a diamond duck off the first legitimate ball of the match.
When fellow opener Rachel Priest played on early in the next over, the WHITE FERNS had lost two of their power hitters with just eight runs on the board.
Sophie Devine, at three, and Player of the Series Amy Satterthwaite looked to have a recovery underway as they started trading boundaries, but a devastating entrance by captain Sana Mir in the fifth over would silence their 28-run-partnership.
Mir claimed first one, then the other with her fourth and fifth ball to put herself on a hat-trick, the White Ferns under pressure at 36/4 after just five overs.
Katey Martin (19 off 21) lost Thamsyn Newton to a run out two overs later, but would form a pivotal stand of 26 runs with Liz Perry — the positive pair showing their experience as they kept calm and looked to keep the scoreboard moving.
Perry, the first to push past 20, would go on to top-score with just 26 off 21 balls, while Katie Perkins (17 off 25) and Lea Tahuhu (a run-a-ball 16) added a 27-run stand for the 10th wicket — enough late support to give their attack something to defend, at least, finishing the 20 overs on 119/9.
Pakistan had their best chance yet to claim a win off their hosts, meanwhile, requiring a tad a under a run a ball in the chase.
Their hopes were rocked back early when pace bowler Lea Tahuhu came out steaming, Javeria Khan surprised, and safely caught by Perry, off player of the match Tahuhu’s very first delivery.
Figures of 0-1 grew to 3-12 for the attack weapon as she went on to strike in each of her first three overs, the removal of Ayesha Zafar generating the most excitement after the Pakistani danger woman had galloped ahead at run-a-ball pace as wickets fell around her — the low target still beckoning.
Bismah Maroof had meanwhile fallen to a ‘three-lay’ run out in just the third over, and the fielding went up a notch when it mattered most.
Later, captain Bates had just exhorted her team to that effect when she herself dove to snaffle an outstanding low grab that removed Iram Javed on 16, just as Pakistan were starting to regain some momentum and run at nines.
Thamsyn Newton was the benefactor on that occasion and would finish with 2-25 — taking a wicket with the final ball of the match on an all-action afternoon.
The heart-warming bit came in between. After having made her ODI debut earlier in the tour, now 16-year-old leg-spinner Amelia Kerr was on Twenty20 International debut — as New Zealand’s youngest player in this form of the game.
It took her just four balls to claim a maiden T20 wicket, pushing Pakistan to 55/7 in the process. By the time Kerr had finished with them, they were against the wall at 90 for nine.
Her first victim was a slog-sweeping Sidra Nawaz, courtesy of another slick catch from Satterthwaite. She then added Asmavia Iqbal lbw in her next over and finished off her debut T20 spell with a tidy 3-16 — by bowling the captain with her last ball.
Kerr said after the match: “I’ve just loved the tour.
“It’s been a really cool experience. I didn’t get nervous at all this whole tour. Just excited to get out on the field and get another win. Their top five batters were quite handy, but we kept up the pressure with the dots.”
Number 10 Aliya Riaz’s gallant unbeaten 28 off 22 balls would be all in vain, but it epitomised the attitude and spirit of a Pakistani team that had shown themselves determined to stand up and be counted.
The match was also umpire Diana Venter’s T20 International debut, and notable as the first occasion on which all three umpires — Kathy Cross and third umpire Kim Cotton — had been women.
The White Ferns will regroup in February to play a T20 away Series v Australia followed by three One-Day Internationals in New Zealand.