Auckland: Jesse Ryder overcame his recent running woes and twitter travails to rattle an 82-ball hundred, and set up a consolation win, as Pakistan went a touch overboard with dead-rubber experimentation.
Ryder's belligerence set up a solid base for New Zealand, before Pakistan's questionable choice of slog-over bowlers allowed Nathan McCullum and Scott Styris plunder 72 off the last five. It left Pakistan chasing 312, a target that proved too steep despite a couple of brief flutters.
Ryder had been chastised earlier in the week for expressing his anger through a tweet following his run-out in a domestic game, but on Saturday,he focused his fury on the opposition. Pakistan's fast-bowling machinery has worked in perfect synchrony through the series, with the exception of Sohail Tanvir, and the trend continued on Saturday.
Tanvir's first four overs yielded 25, in addition to accounting for Brendon McCullum, but Ryder spanked him out of the attack with three bombastic sixes in his fifth. Tanvir over-pitched, Ryder went down on a knee to jab him beyond square leg; he dropped short and Ryder pulled over wide long-on.
Tanvir then landed a slower ball on a length, and it was smoked down the ground. The template had been set for the innings: every time New Zealand needed release, they ran into Tanvir's inviting lengths and friendly pace, which they duly plundered for 78 runs in eight overs of mayhem.
The rest of the cast fared only marginally better. Mohammad Hafeez was driven inside out for a four and a six in the bowling Powerplay. Ryder raced past fifty by dragging Umar Gul to midwicket, and then cracked him square and hooked him beyond fine-leg. Martin Guptill held his own at the other end, focussing on feeding Ryder with the strike in a stand worth 123.
With the field restrictions lifted, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq reined New Zealand in. From 108 for 1 in the 16th over, New Zealand could add only 33 in 9.3 overs before Guptill holed out. Razzaq promptly threw another punch, getting Ross Taylor to nick a subtle legcutter behind.
A niggle forced Ryder to ask for a runner, but he ensured Brendon did not have much running to do, heaving Razzaq over fine leg, and swiping Shoaib Akhtar in the same direction. He brought up his ton with a glance in the 33rd over. However, with his mobility clearly hampered by the injury, he targeted the boundary exclusively, and was caught in the deep.
Wary of their longish tail, New Zealand chose to conserve resources for the late surge. Tanvir's return in the 43rd over signalled the end of the ceasefire, as Nathan tickled him to fine leg, before dumping Hafeez over long-on. Styris gorged as well, threading Tanvir through the covers as New Zealand warmed up for a tumultuous finish.
Gul was looted for a six and a four in the 46th over - the first of the final Powerplay - and Nathan played the field smartly to carve boundaries over the infield off Afridi in the 47th. After fluffing a straightforward run-out chance earlier, and conceding 14 runs in his over, Afridi pressed Tanvir and Hafeez into operation. The result - Styris and Nathan plundered nine fours and three sixes and breezed to half-centuries as the innings ended in a blaze of big hits.
Pakistan's chase began with the same lack of intensity that characterised their bowling. Ahmed Shehzad survived after edging a Kyle Mills outswinger in the first over of the innings, but combusted in his next over, top-edging an ambitious pull. Hafeez was beginning to look ominous when he clipped Hamish Bennett straight to deep square-leg.
Younis Khan struggled against the impressive Bennett, who got for a delivery to thud into his box, cracking his protector and leaving him gasping. Younis eventually edged Bennett behind, the wicketkeeper taking a diving catch to his right.
Kamran Akmal chose to knuckle down against seam and wait for the weaker bowlers. It was a good plan, since New Zealand were playing Luke Woodcock and Nathan on a pitch that didn't aid spin. Having moved to 26 off 39 balls by the 18th over, Kamran sped to his half-century with aggressive hits against the spinners.
The game changed when Asad Shafiq exited to a needless mix-up, after a stand of 74. Kamran kept attacking, launching Styris for a third six, but James Franklin removed him and Umar Akmal in an energetic spell as the chase sputtered. Afridi displayed rare restraint, while Tanvir slugged a few blows to keep Pakistan interested. They added 58 for the eight wicket and, with a batting Powerplay to come, New Zealand were becoming anxious for a wicket.
It came in freak fashion, as Tim Southee ran down the track on his follow-through to catch Tanvir short of the crease, with his bat getting stuck in the turf before he could slide it in. It was the sort of moment that had eluded New Zealand through the series, and when it came it was greeted with relief.