Wellington: Grant Elliott scored 64 not out and took 3-26 in an all-round performance which led New Zealand to a seven-wicket win over Pakistan with ten overs to spare in Saturday's first of two one-day games.
Ross Taylor made 59 and Martin Guptill 39 as New Zealand reached 213-3 in the 40th over in reply to Pakistan's 210, cruising to a victory which further heightens expectations of a strong showing by the co-hosts in the upcoming World Cup.
Guptill struggled in the just-completed seven-match series against Sri Lanka, making three ducks, but made a welcome return to form, as did Taylor, who had averaged a mediocre 28 in that series.
Shahidi Afridi scored 67 off 29 balls and captain Misbah-ul-Haq made 58 in an otherwise poor batting performance by Pakistan.
Elliott's performance again underscored the quality of New Zealand's all-rounders which may be a significant asset when the World Cup begins. He was a contentious inclusion in the 15-man World Cup squad but has more than vindicated his selection with 194 runs against Sri Lanka, including a century in the third ODI.
His handy bowling also added to the depth of New Zealand's attack. The Black Caps' leading seam bowlers performed well, taking wickets and restricting Pakistan early, then the all-rounders made their vital contribution as Pakistan's innings ended in the 46th over.
"It was a really professional performance tonight," New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said. "Our fielding was outstanding, probably the best we've seen this summer and that creates so much intensity and allows your seamers to really get into the game.
"The run chase was really well-planned by Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill looked like he was in some good form as well."
Pakistan lost opener Mohammad Hafeez to the fifth ball of its innings and struggled to 32-3 in the 12th over before Misbah staunched the flow of wickets and began to repair the innings.
After Pakistan slumped further to 127-6, Misbah joined Afridi in a counter-attacking partnership of 71 for the seventh wicket.
"We just lost too many wickets and even in the first 10 overs we were nowhere and gained no momentum," Misbah-ul-Haq said. "And then we just kept on losing wickets.
"We were 70 or 80 runs short. 280 or 290 could have been competitive on this pitch."
With little realistic chance of limiting New Zealand's run-rate below four per over, Pakistan needed to bowl the hosts out to win the match, but its attacking intent caused it to give up too many runs too quickly, and Taylor and Elliott shared an unbroken 112-run stand to record a comfortable victory.
The teams meet in the second international at Napier on Tuesday.