Sophie Devine's brilliant century and a disciplined effort by the bowlers helped New Zealand secure a nervy eight-run win over Pakistan in its opening match of the ICC Women's Championship at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
Chasing 241, Pakistan - at 232 for 8 - was close to its first-ever win over New Zealand, with just nine runs required from two overs. But Amelia Kerr turned the game in New Zealand's favour as she dismissed Diana Baig in the second ball of the 49th over, which was followed by a run-out of Sadia Yousuf, when Devine's direct throw hit the stumps to put paid to Pakistan's plans in Bismah Maroof's first game as full-time captain.
Earlier, Devine's 119-ball 103, her second ODI century, studded with ten boundaries, had lifted New Zealand to 240 for 9 after it decided to bat first.
New Zealand was off to a positive start, thanks to a 65-run opening stand between Devine and Suzie Bates (36 off 39). Pakistan had its first breakthrough in the 13th over when Bates hit a short-pitched ball off Yousuf towards midwicket, straight into the hands of Maroof.
Amy Satterthwaite (20) fell in the 24th over when Maroof took a diving catch at long-off. In the next over, Katey Martin was trapped leg before by Sana Mir to put New Zealand in a spot at 123 for 3. Maddy Green became Maroof's only wicket while Katie Perkins fell cheaply to Mir. Devine was finally dismissed in the 45th over, when Mir elicited an edge that was caught by Nahida Khan at midwicket.
Green (22) and Amelia Kerr (30) were the other two batters to score in double digits but failed to build on starts.
Mir was Pakistan's star bowler with figures of 3 for 33, while Yousuf and Javeria Khan chipped in with two wickets apiece.
Pakistan lost Ayesha Zafar, the opener, early in its chase when she was bowled by Holly Huddleston. Nahida and Javeria then took the charge and notched up a 77-run second-wicket stand to steady the innings. Soon after scoring their half-centuries, Nahida, who scored 51 off 62 with seven fours, fell to Satterthwaite in the 20th over, while Javeria became Huddleston's second victim, falling for 55 off 73 balls.
Maroof (41), Sidra Ameen(33) and Iram Javed (19) also made useful contributions but New Zealand's bowlers held their nerve and kept chipping away to finally bowl Pakistan out for 232 in 48.3 overs.
Huddleston, Kasperek and Kerr shared six wickets between them. Thamsyn Newton and Satterthwaite also took a wicket each.
With two points from this game, New Zealand is at the third spot in the Women's Championship table. The second ODI will be played at the same venue on November 2.