Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips led New Zealand to a seven-wicket victory over Pakistan in the fourth Twenty20 international in Christchurch on Friday, putting them on the cusp of a series clean sweep.
The Black Caps duo hit undefeated half-centuries in a 139-run stand to help the home side reach 159-3 in the 19th over, responding to Pakistan’s 158-5.
They were forced to stage a rearguard fight when Pakistan skipper Shaheen Shah Afridi dismissed New Zealand’s top order, reducing them to 3-20 in the third over.
Mitchell scored 72 off 44 balls and Phillips 70 off 52, surging late on to win with 11 balls to spare after starting cautiously.
Mitchell, a big-hitting allrounder, said that the first task was to deal with Afridi’s immediate danger before the two established goals.
“The way Shaheen swung it up top made it challenging so we had to take it as deep as we could,” Mitchell went on to say.
“It’s about biding your time and forming a relationship until you reach that 10-12 over level, then keep putting pressure on them.
“We have different strengths and like to hit the ball to different areas, it’s good fun batting with him.”
New Zealand can win the series 5-0 on Sunday’s last match at the same Hagley Oval.
Pakistan paid the price for failing to assist opening batsman Mohammad Rizwan, who scored an unbroken 90 off 63 balls to dominate his team’s innings.
Rizwan managed to keep the scoreboard ticking against a disciplined New Zealand onslaught spearheaded by seamers Matt Henry (2-22) and Lockie Ferguson (2-27).
In an innings with just six fours and two sixes, the 31-year-old came close to scoring his second T20 international century.
Mohammad Nawaz, an allrounder, was the only other player to score more than 20 runs, hitting fast bowler Adam Milne for three consecutive sixes in his penultimate over to reach 21 off nine balls.
Babar Azam, who had half-centuries in the previous three games, was dismissed for 19 after he skied an attempted pull off Milne in the seventh over.
Afridi, Pakistan’s pace bowler, kept the team in the game by dismissing Finn Allen, Tim Seifert, and Will Young cheaply, finishing with 3-34.
Allen’s wicket was especially valued after the opener’s spectacular 137 in game three on Wednesday.
However, Mitchell and Phillips steadily shifted the tide back in New Zealand’s favour, and Pakistan may have blown their last opportunity at victory when Sahibzada Farhan dropped a simple chance in the deep presented by Mitchell in the 14th over.
Afridi stated a decent total would have been 170 and that Pakistan’s weaknesses were revealed on the pitch after his own dangerous opening session.
“The way we started was very good but unfortunately again in the middle overs we didn’t grab our opportunities,” Afridi stated in a press conference.