New Zealand beat Pakistan in the fourth T20I by four runs on Thursday (April 25) at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore to go 2-1 up in the five-match series.

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Days after failing to defend 178, Pakistan have failed to chase the same target. A collective performance from the New Zealand pace attack, especially Will O’Rourke’s 3-27 and Ben Sears’ 2-27, helped the visitors to take a 2-1 lead in the series with one match left to play.

After being asked to bat, New Zealand started briskly, with Tim Robinson (51 off 36) forging a 56-run opening stand with Tom Blundell (28 off 15), before the latter was dismissed off the last ball of the fifth over. The tourists lost their way at the death as Abbas Afridi’s 3-20 ensured New Zealand scored just enough to keep Pakistan at bay. The other main contributors to their batting effort were Dean Foxcroft (34 off 26) and Michael Bracewell (27 not out off 20).

In pursuit of the target, Pakistan lost their top three for 46 runs before the end of the powerplay, with Saim Ayub (20 off 15), Babar Azam (5 off 4) and Usman Khan (16 off 11) all back in the pavilion. Fakhar Zaman’s 45-ball 61 on his return to the side kept Pakistan in the hunt, but when a struggling Iftikhar Ahmed (23 off 20), and he fell in successive overs, Pakistan’s defeat seemed inevitable.

The game went down to the wire. Jimmy Neesham bowled a scratchy last over, in which he had to contain 17 runs, ending with Pakistan needing six off the last ball. Imad Wasim tried his best with his unbeaten 22 off 11 balls but fell short by four runs.

A potential series loss against a second-string New Zealand side now looms over Pakistan in front of a home crowd. New Zealand are without Trent Boult, Glenn Phillips, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Kane Williamson and other first-choice picks who have IPL contracts.

On the other hand, the hosts have fielded a near fully-fledged side under re-appointed white-ball captain Babar. The series also marked Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim’s international comebacks as the duo reversed their retirements to be available for the T20 World Cup. All eyes will be on Pakistan as they seek to level the series.