New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said Pakistan were superb at the death with both bat and ball and that proved to be the difference maker in their closely-fought encounter at Sharjah on Tuesday (October 26).
The Black Caps were 90 for 3 after 13 overs in the first innings but could only manage 44 runs in the last seven overs. In the second innings, New Zealand brought the equation down to 53 off 36 but Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali got Pakistan over the line with more than an over to spare.
"I think at one stage they required about maybe 52 off 30-ish (33). It was a tough surface to time the ball on, but someone like Shoaib Malik batting through and finishing off with a couple of lusty blows, and Asif as well, who came in and hit the ball beautifully - much, much more sweet than anybody else on a tricky surface," said Williamson.
"Unfortunately, it didn't quite go our way. If we look at the opposition and how clinical they were at the death, not allowing us to time the ball, they were of the highest class. For us, it's trying to take some of those learnings and move forward."
The likes of Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Williamson and Devon Conway all got starts but couldn't convert it into something substantial. New Zealand ended up with a total of 134, which Williamson thinks was competitive on that surface, but would have liked a few more runs.
"(The surface) was very difficult to start on. You wanted to try and identify some opportunities to have big overs because you're always going to have dot balls. It was very similar characteristics to what we saw throughout the IPL.
"I think we would have liked about another five or ten. To be fair, I thought we had a very competitive total at the first half, but in hindsight, you always want a few more. But there were a lot of really important roles that allowed us to get that competitive total, so I think there was a lot of good to take from it.
"It would be nice to cloth another boundary or two, but timing was quite challenging to come by. That's the nature of the beast. Sometimes you try and adapt to these different surfaces accordingly and try and make contributions for the team, and I think guys went out there today and really gave it a good shot."
When New Zealand pulled out of the tour last month citing security concerns, it created a stir that then subsequently resulted in England pulling out of their Pakistan tour. It was a mighty blow to the Asian nation’s ambition to invite bigger teams to their land and resume full-fledged cricket, which had so, unfortunately, missed the sport for over a decade now. However, Williamson said that the game was played in the right spirit.
"They played in the right spirit, I believe, and a great spirit. They're a very competitive, proud cricketing nation, and they showed that tonight. They've been outstanding in the first couple of games of this tournament. I'm sure they'll be very, very competitive throughout the back end as well. Their hopes are high, no doubt.
"(New Zealand's withdrawal) was obviously a very unfortunate, disappointing situation for Pakistani cricket fans and the cricketers, a decision that was outside of the players' control. But all the guys were there looking forward to that series to start, and unfortunately it didn't happen, so it was very disappointing for all involved.
"It was nice to play in front of sort of pretty much a full house… it's been a long time coming although there weren't too many Kiwis in there, but still a lot of energy and a lot of enjoyment from the people that were watching. I think the guys enjoyed it. It was a close game and sort of pipped at the end to a large extent by some really high-class batting and sort of finishing in those death overs. That was, I think, the difference."