Hamilton: Ahmed Shehzad hit his maiden one-day international century on Thursday to guide Pakistan to a 41-run win over New Zealand in the 5th one-day cricket international, clinching the six-match series.
Shehzad made 115 from 104 balls as Pakistan posted 268-9 in its 50 overs after being sent in to bat on a slow pitch.
Umar Akmal made 32, the next-best score, and Misbah ul-Haq (25) and Shahid Afridi (24) - rivals for Pakistan`s World Cup captaincy - offered support as Pakistan reached a moderate but competitive total.
In reply, New Zealand was bowled out for 227 in 46.5 overs, with stand-in captain Ross Taylor top scoring with 69 and Martin Guptill making 65. The pair put on 69 for New Zealand`s third wicket but their separation prompted the steady decline of the New Zealand innings.
"We`ve had to wait a long time for Pakistan to win a series but it`s come at the right time, just before the World Cup," said Afridi, Pakistan`s current one-day captain.
Shehzad provided the thread that held together the top of the Pakistan innings. He batted freely but composedly, taking the senior role in all of his partnerships and eclipsing his previous best one-day score of 43.
Umar Akmal tried to steer the latter part of the innings, making 32, but Pakistan fell well short of the total it may have expected when Shehzad was out in the 38th over at 197-4.
"I thought we would make 300, but we weren`t able to keep up the momentum," Afridi said.
New Zealand also restricted Pakistan with its slower bowlers. Scott Styris took 2-51, Jacob Oram 2-49 and Kyle Mills, bowling mainly slow medium pace, took 2-42.
New Zealand`s run chase suffered an immediate setback when opener Jesse Ryder was run out on the first ball of the innings. Guptill steered the ball to Misbah ul-Haq at wide mid-on, Ryder was backing up too far and Misbah threw down the stumps at the non-striker`s end.
Guptill worked hard to revive the innings, reaching his half century from 59 balls but he gave away his wicket with a poor shot, offering a catch to Umar Akmal off Shoaib Akhtar.
Taylor attempted to guide New Zealand to victory but he wasn`t able to score with fluency and the mounting run-rate placed pressure on the lower middle order and tail.
"We didn`t want to chase more than 85 or 90 in the last 10 overs but just lost too many wickets and put too much pressure on the last few batsmen," Taylor said.
The home side allowed itself to be tied down by Pakistan`s slower bowlers; part-time spinner Mohammad Hafeez bowled nine straight overs for only 34 runs.
New Zealand`s victory chances evaporated during its batting power play between the 40th and 45th overs. New Zealand scored 43 runs from the five overs but lost the wickets of Taylor, James Franklin (16) and Jacob Oram (10) to go from 176-5 at its outset to 219-8 at its end.
Nathan McCullum (14) was bowled by Umar Gul in the first over after the power play while New Zealand still needed 46 for victory and Hamish Bennett quickly followed as New Zealand`s innings ended meekly.
Wahab Riaz finished with 3-51 for Pakistan while Umar Gul (2-28) and Afridi (2-55) made important contributions.
Taylor was called on to lead New Zealand when regular captain Daniel Vettori withdrew shortly before the match with a hamstring strain.
Pakistan leads the series 3-1 with the final match to be played in Auckland on Saturday.