LISTEN ABOVE AS TRENT BOULT SPEAKS TO RADIO SPORT BREAKFAST
The Black Caps needed something special to get their season on track, and Trent Boult had just the trick.
Making his international cricket return after parental leave, Boult claimed New Zealand's first ODI hat-trick in nearly 12 years, ripping through the top of the Pakistan order as the Black Caps earned a 47-run victory in the opening ODI in the United Arab Emirates.
After suffering a 3-0 series defeat in the Twenty20 series, it was a return to a favoured format for the Black Caps, who have now 12 straight ODIs against Pakistan – a winning streak that stretches back to 2014.
The victory doubles as the first win under new coach Gary Stead, and he had a slice of history accompanying it, with Boult joining Shane Bond (against Australia in 2007) and Danny Morrison (v India in 1994) as the only Kiwis to claim an ODI hat-trick.
It's fair to say Boult's trifecta was the best of the lot. While Bond and Morrison's both came in the last over of the innings, Boult's effort came during the third over, and removed Pakistan's three most dangerous batsmen.
"It's my third hat-trick ever I reckon, and the other two I got were in the same game against Whakatane back in 2002," laughed Boult.
Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez were the victims, falling to Boult's bowling in three different fashions.
Zaman was the first to go, bowled off his pads onto the stumps, before Azam flayed at a wide yorker, with the edge flying to Ross Taylor at slip.
Hafeez came out to face the hat-trick ball, and was promptly trapped lbw by an inswinger, and up went the umpire's finger to scenes of celebration amongst the Black Caps players.
Boult described what was going through his mind on the hat-trick ball.
"Just make him play, I guess. There's not too many occasions where I've been on a hat-trick in a one-day match so to make him play and slide one onto his pads was a pretty good feeling.
"We all know what early wickets do to chasing totals, so it was nice to get a couple wickets there, but more satisfying getting the win."
Boult's brilliance proved to be a perfect catalyst for a dominant victory, after the Black Caps had earlier posted 266-9 after electing to bat first on the Abu Dhabi pitch.
Taylor and Tom Latham anchored the innings, putting on 130 for the fourth wicket after the visitors were reduced to 78-3. Latham looked in good knick in his return to international cricket, making 68 from 64 balls, while Taylor overcame a scratchy period to compile a sedate but valuable 80 from 112 deliveries.
At 208-3 with nine overs remaining, the Black Caps looked set up to launch, but a mini-collapse nearly scuttled their plans. Three wickets in four balls from spinner Shadab Khan saw Latham, Henry Nicholls and Colin de Grandhomme depart, before Taylor fell in the next over; the Black Caps slumping to 210-7.
They were rescued by Tim Southee (20 off 21) and Ish Sodhi (24 off 19), who mixed restraint with a few lusty blows to reach a respectable total, before Boult hit the last ball of the innings for six.
It was a sign of what was to come. After ripping apart the Pakistan top order – and completely overshadowing the efforts of poor Shadab – Boult got some support from his bowling counterparts, with a quality Lockie Ferguson short ball dismissing Imam ul-Haq, before Shoaib Malik had a brain explosion and holed out off de Grandhomme's bowling.
Sodhi chipped in with a controversial wicket from his first ball, with Shadab (poor, poor Shadab...) missing the ball by a mile but given out caught behind anyway, in a horrific decision from umpire Joel Wilson.
Pakistan had no reviews left, so Shadab had to go, and it was left to the pair of Sarfraz Ahmed and Imad Wasim to rescue the hosts from 85-6.
They gave it a good crack - adding 103 to give Pakistan an outside shot, but a superb de Grandhomme yorker uprooted Sarfraz for 64, and eventually the task became too challenging, with the Black Caps fittingly finishing it off with another flurry of wickets to get on the board in the new season.