At five matches, this ODI series may have seemed excessively lengthy, but only because it appeared to have been one interminable match stretched out over a fortnight. It didn't need five games for anyone to find out that Pakistan have serious trouble facing the new ball in conditions that New Zealand offers. But the home side hammered that point home ad nauseam, sealing it with a 15-run win that was more comprehensive than the scorecard suggests, and delivering just their second whitewash in a five-match series.
The chase, as on every other occasion, was effectively over before it began. Matt Henry, coming in for the rested Trent Boult, made full use of his opportunity, taking three wickets in his first four overs. Fakhar Zaman was harassed, hit on the helmet, dropped and finally caught at extra cover. With no movement on offer, Henry bowled a steady off stump line, cleverly waiting for Pakistan's batsmen to make their own mistakes. Ever the gentlemen, they didn't keep him waiting long. Umar Amin and Babar Azam edged behind and Pakistan were reduced to 31 for 3. Azam may still average over 50, but his dismissal on Friday was an act of mercy, releasing him from a series in which he scored 31 runs at 6.20.
Three wickets soon became five, thanks to a pair of sharp catches in the infield, and it was left to Haris Sohail and Shadab Khan to do the face-saving again. They showed the fight they have demonstrated whenever given the chance, putting on a century-partnership without ever really threatening a result. That wasn't their fault - it merely illustrated the extent to which the top order has let the visitors down all series.
Both fell after scoring half-centuries, looking to pick up the scoring rate to meet an ever-rising asking rate. Mohammad Nawaz and Aamer Yamin put on an entertaining little partnership that briefly called the result into question, riding their luck as Pakistan took the game to the penultimate over. However, New Zealand had just enough runs, and had inflicted just enough damage at the top of the innings, to ensure their winning streak - now eight ODIs - remained intact.
Earlier, a 112-run partnership between Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor guided New Zealand through the middle overs and steered them to 271 on a tricky surface. Guptill scored a hundred - the 13th of his ODI career - while Taylor recorded his 58th 50-plus score, surpassing the record for a New Zealand batsman. Run-scoring through the middle overs was harder work than it had seemed in the first ODI at the Basin Reserve, but that could at least partially be put down to a solid bowling performance by Pakistan, complemented by their best day in the field this series. A late implosion from New Zealand, combined by fabulous end-overs bowling, meant the innings fell away after flattering to deceive for most of the first 40 overs.
For a series involving Pakistan, it was surprisingly predictable in some respects. To nobody's surprise, New Zealand, batting first, set about taking advantage of the opening Powerplay. As usual, it was Colin Munro doing the early damage, complemented by the occasional destructively elegant shot from Guptill - a straight six off Rumman Raees the pick of the bunch. Yamin bore the brunt of the aggression but neither opening bowler was spared the heat as New Zealand brought up fifty inside six overs. Munro perished as he had thrived, top-edging Raees while looking to slog across the line, but the platform had been set. Kane Williamson and Guptill built on it, the early onslaught giving them the space and time to construct the partnership at their own pace. Pakistan began to come back into the contest, too, with Shadab and Nawaz bowling tight lines to choke the batsmen.
It might have accounted for the second wicket. With the partnership on 49, the New Zealand captain lifted Yamin into the leg side, looking to clear deep midwicket. Amin took the catch to dismiss Williamson in the strangest of ways. Pakistan took control through the middle overs, the bowlers varying their pace and length adeptly as Taylor and Guptill struggled for timing. The ground fielding improved too, as New Zealand were starved of the singles they usually take for granted, and the run rate dipped below five at the 30-over mark. However, what Pakistan didn't manage was more wickets, and with the duo getting their eye in, New Zealand were gearing up for a big finish.
It didn't quite materialise that way as they fell within a few overs of each other. Colin de Grandhomme couldn't get going with the fluency with which he had devastated Pakistan in Hamilton. Other wickets fell as Pakistan began to strangle the New Zealand middle and lower order; Henry Nicholls was caught in the deep trying to get Raees away, while Faheem Ashraf got rid of Tom Latham as he attempted a scoop. The innings turned sloppy - Mitchell Santner was run out off the first ball he faced, and a total that had looked to push past 300 fizzled out.
As it turned out, though, the ineptitude of Pakistan's top order ensured they wouldn't have to pay for their profligacy.
New Zealand whitewash Pakistan 5-0 in ODI series
New Zealand whitewash Pakistan 5-0 in ODI series