By Jake Beleski
New Zealand 1 Pakistan 1
A draw was all they needed, and that’s exactly what Pakistan got in the fifth and final test against the Black Sticks at Clareville last night.
Pakistan’s two games to one lead in the series meant last night’s 1-1 draw ensured they would head home with the spoils after a seesawing series.
The Black Sticks came out firing in their pursuit of a series-levelling win, dominating a fast and furious first quarter.
Cameron Hayde produced the only clear-cut opportunity of the quarter, but his shot from close range was saved by Pakistan’s goalie, Amjad Ali.
Black Sticks goalie Devon Manchester was forced to make a couple of late saves of his own, leaving the teams locked at 1-1 heading into the second quarter.
The second period saw the pace of the game slow, with both sides struggling to create momentum on attack.
The Black Sticks looked most dangerous on the counterattack, but a lack of quality finishing consistently thwarted any goal scoring opportunities.
Pakistan seemed content with defending resolutely and attacking when presented with turnover ball, which was completely understandable given their overall lead in the series.
The half eventually ended with neither team on the score sheet, leaving the Black Sticks needing to win the second half to tie the series.
Five minutes into the third quarter New Zealand’s persistence was rewarded with the first penalty corner of the match, but Cory Bennett’s shot was deflected over the goal.
The Black Sticks continued to press, and gained a second penalty corner seven minutes later.
Again, Pakistan’s goalie was up to the challenge, deflecting the shot wide of the goal.
In the final play of the quarter Pakistan worked their way up the other end and secured their first shot at a penalty corner, but Black Sticks’ goalie George Enersen parried the shot wide.
Pakistan carried the momentum into the final quarter of the series, and within two minutes they took the lead when Muhammad Irfan scored a simple goal following a weaving run from Muhammad Umar Bhutta.
That goal left the Black Sticks needing two goals to tie the series, and they got one immediately when Sam Lane’s rocket from the edge of the circle found its way into the back of the goal.
It proved too little too late, however, as Pakistan held on over a frenetic final few minutes to clinch the series.