Abu Mahmood's drag flicks help Pakistan level series against Black Sticks
The drag flicks of Abu Mahmood have propelled Pakistan to a series-levelling men's hockey win against New Zealand.
Mahmood scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 win in the third test at the National Hockey Stadium in Wellington on Monday night.
The series now heads to the Clareville turf in the Wairarapa for the final two matches tied at 1-1.
While Mahmood provided the goals, it was an equalling impressive showing from Pakistan goalkeeper Amjad Ali, who made a string of impressive saves to help secure the win.
But their highlights would come in the second half, as it was Pakistan's captain, Abdul Haseem Khan, who gave his side a deserved 1-0 halftime lead, deflecting in a Mahmood flick from a penalty corner.
Aside from an Mac Wilcox reverse shot in the opening two minutes, New Zealand failed to force Ali into a save or force a penalty corner over the first 30 minutes.
Pakistan's defence was solid, marking tightly and making the Black Sticks force passes that weren't quite on.
At the other end, they looked hungry to get their first win of the series.
Aside from Khan's sixth-minute effort, they had two other good chances in the half, but lacked a definitive finish to extend their one-goal advantage.
Black Sticks captain Arun Panchia put the lacklustre first half down to experimenting with a few different strategies.
"We tried a few things different out, trying to be more aggressive with the ball and change shape a little bit more and it didn't quite work out for us in that first half.
"Pakistan were able to get a few good attacks and executed on their PCs throughout the game. It's a credit to them, they stepped up their game and we weren't quite on the pace for the first three quarters."
Pakistan put their first half wastefulness behind them early in the second half when Mahmood got his first two goals within five minutes of the restart, nailing drag flicks low and to the left of Black Sticks goalkeeper Devon Manchester.
The Black Sticks almost got themselves back into the match two minutes later, but Ali produced a great save diving to his right to deny Sam Lane.
New Zealand finally won their first penalty corner nine minutes into the second half, which Ali made another outstanding save from to deflect onto his crossbar.
The Black Sticks' next attempt went a lot better, with Cory Bennett firing high above Ali to get his side on the board 60 seconds before the end of the third quarter.
The final quarter started with New Zealand well on top, but it was that man Ali again in the thick of the action to deny Lane from another penalty corner.
Mahmood completed his hat-trick midway through the final quarter, this time going high and to the right with his drag flick.
Stephen Jenness added a consolation goal for the Black Sticks with 70 seconds to play with a quality reverse shot.
Panchia said the loss would be a good learning experience for the younger players.
"There's plenty for us to work on, but it's a five game series, we're trying to mix it up and we will in the Wairarapa."
AT A GLANCE
Pakistan 4 (Abu Mahmood 3, Abdul Haseem Khan) Black Sticks 2 (Cory Bennett, Stephen Jenness). HT: 1-0.