PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka - Offspinner Saeed Ajmal took 4-30 as Pakistan survived a late charge from New Zealand to register a 13-run victory in a World Twenty20 Group D match on Sunday.
Nasir Jamshed smashed two fours and four sixes in a career-best 56 off 35 balls and led Pakistan to 177-6 against some inconsistent New Zealand fielding.
New Zealand looked out of the game when it needed 34 off the last two overs. But captain Ross Taylor staged a gallant comeback and hit paceman Umar Gul for three successive boundaries before he was run out while attempting to retain the strike. Ajmal then added two more wickets in the last over as the Kiwis ended up at 164-9.
Despite the loss, New Zealand booked a place in Super Eights on superior run-rate after registering 59-run victory over Bangladesh on Friday. Pakistan meets Bangladesh in the last group match on Tuesday.
It was Pakistan spinners who kept New Zealand at bay until the 19th over. Shahid Afridi knocked back top scorer Rob Nicol's (33) off stump in his first over and Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez bowled a tidy spell of four overs for just 15 runs.
Even Brendon McCullum, who scored 123 against Bangladesh on Friday at the same venue, could not score freely against the Pakistan bowlers.
McCullum added 48 runs off 41 balls with Daniel Vettori (18) and managed to hit one six and just four boundaries in his 31-ball knock of 32 before he was bowled by Gul in the 16th over. Vettori tried to lift the scoring tempo but holed out in the deep off Ajmal, who also clean bowled Jacob Oram (11).
"I had confidence in our bowlers that we will stop New Zealand after Brendon McCullum got out," Hafeez said. "I have variety in our bowling department which is a blessing for any captain."
Earlier, lefthander Jamshed's career-best knock was well supplemented by Hafeez, who scored 43 off 38 balls after Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat first in its opening match.
New Zealand had its chances but dropped catches of both top-scorers. Taylor grassed a regulation catch of Hafeez in the lone slip before Pakistan had scored, while Nicol missed a sitter off Jamshed on 34 in the deep.
"We leaked a few runs early in the field," Taylor said. "But we pulled things back as at one stage it looked we will be chasing 200."
Flamboyant opener Imran Nazir hit five boundaries in his knock of 25 and put on 47 runs with Hafeez before Tim Southee had him caught off his own bowling.
Jamshed continued the brisk scoring rate and surpassed his 45 last month against Australia at Dubai with a midwicket boundary off Jacob Oram and raised his half-century from 27 balls.
Hafeez, who should have been gone off Kyle Mills' third delivery of the match, finally departed in the 14th over when he was bowled by James Franklin but not before putting on 76 runs off 48 balls with Jamshed. He hit two fours and two sixes in his knock.
Jamshed soon perished after hitting his maiden half-century to a tumbling catch at long on by Nathan McCullum.
New Zealand, which conceded 92 runs in the first 10 overs, didn't fare much better in the last 10 when it conceded 85, with Umar Akmal (23) and Afridi (12) combining to hit five fours and a six.
Southee was the pick of the bowlers with 2-31 while Oram was expensive for the wickets of the Akmal brothers — Kamran and Umar — in conceding 44 runs.