Pakistan beat New Zealand by 18 runs at Tauranga to claim the T20 series 2-1 and leapfrog the Blackcaps at the top of the ICC T20I Team Rankings.
It is fair to say Pakistan's tour of New Zealand had not been going well up until the last few days. The tourists were comprehensively thrashed 5-0 in the ODI series and lost the T20I series-opener.
Their confidence in the white ball game appeared to be at a low ebb. It is remarkable, then, that they have managed to turn around their fortunes in such a short space of time to beat New Zealand twice, claim the series and leapfrog them into first place in the ICC T20I Team Rankings.
If their victory in the second T20I in Auckland owed much to the top-four, who all scored more than 40 put on 201/4, the series-clincher in Tauranga was a proper all-round team performance.
Batting first once again, Pakistan posted 181/6 from their 20 overs, with contributions from every single player who came to the crease. Opener Fakhar Zaman got the away side off to a solid start, smashing 46 from 36 balls before the middle order consolidated through Sarfraz Ahmed (29), Haris Sohail (20*), Umar Amin (21) and Aamer Yamim (15* from 6 balls).
Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner (2/24) was the pick of the New Zealand bowlers, but Pakistan filled their boots against the rest of the attack with Trent Boult's 1/33 the next best bowling return. New Zealand chipped away throughout the Pakistan innings, but every new batsman simply continued the side's momentum. At the half-way stage captain Sarfraz would have been confident of his side's chances.
He would have been less confident when New Zealand opener Martin Guptill (59 from 43) started to get going in the Powerplay, but Shadab Khan (2/19) played a brilliant hand, dismissing Anaru Kitchen and Guptill in the same over to leave New Zealand 87/3 with seven overs remaining.
BREAKING: @TheRealPCB have returned to the top of the @MRFWorldwide ICC T20I Team Rankings for the third time in as many months after winning their three-match series against New Zealand.— ICC (@ICC) January 28, 2018
➡️ https://t.co/1i875Ly7VI pic.twitter.com/e0u9BC82cs
From there the hosts were always chasing the game and despite a late flourish from Ross Taylor, who struck three sixes in his 25 from 11 balls, and Santner (24 from 12), Pakistan got home comfortably by 18 runs to claim the series.
When the final ball of the game - a dot from Faheem Ashraf to Santner - was over, wicket-keeper Sarfraz was heard celebrating over the stump microphone. This was a big win for Pakistan in many ways. To come back from six consecutive defeats in white ball cricket in unfamiliar conditions. To finish the tour off on a high. To become the best T20I side in the world. These are all special achievements.