Mohammed Hafeez led by example and Saeed Ajmal bamboozled the batsmen as 2009 champions Pakistan beat the Black Caps by 13 runs in their Group D opener of the Twenty20 World Cup overnight.
Electing to bat first, Hafeez (43) forged a 76-run second wicket partnership with Nasir Jamshed (56), cashing in on New Zealand's uncharacteristically sloppy fielding, to help his team post 177 for six at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.
Returning to defend the total, Pakistani slow bowlers did not allow the New Zealand top order to accelerate and off-spinner Ajmal (4-30) denied them the late burst as well to restrict them to 164 for nine wickets.
Shahid Afridi got one wicket for 30 runs and even though Hafeez did not get a wicket, the Pakistan skipper sent down four tidy overs conceding only 15 runs to stifle the opponents.
Despite the defeat, New Zealand have booked a place in the Super Eight stage because of their healthy net run-rate.
Pakistan need to avoid a heavy defeat against Bangladesh in their remaining group match on Tuesday night to join them in the next stage.
The most successful Twenty20 team, who have made semi-finals in all three previous editions of the tournament, Pakistan top order clicked on Sunday, aided by the poor catching of their opponents.
Hafeez could have been dismissed for a duck in the first over but New Zealand captain Ross Taylor dropped a regulation catch at slip.
Seam bowler Kyle Mills went through the agony again in the 11th over when Rob Nicol, fielding in the deep, not only dropped Jamshed but palmed the ball over the rope for a six.
Jamshed's 35-ball knock, which earned him the man of the match award, included four sixes and a couple of boundaries.
"I have improved my game and today I showed those skills in the match," Jamshed told reporters.
"We just wanted to stick to our plans despite the loss of wickets. I wanted to control the game because I was the set batsman at the time. I wanted to take as much of the strike as possible and score as much as I can."
For New Zealand, Nicol (33) and Kane Williamson (15) added 53 runs for the opening stand but the asking run rate kept spiralling.
Even Brendon McCullum, who scored a record Twenty20 century against Bangladesh on Friday, could not break the shackles and fell to Umar Gul after a 31-ball 32.
New Zealand captain Ross Taylor scored brisk 26 runs off 11 balls but was run out in the penultimate over and Ajmal claimed two wickets in the last over to give his team a winning start in the tournament.
"Anytime you're chasing more than 10 runs an over for a period of 8-9 overs, it's going to be a tough ask," Taylor lamented.
"We dropped a few catches, leaked too many runs in the first 10 overs. We could've been staring at something closer to 200.
"It was a totally different wicket. It didn't quite skid on like it did the other day. It spun a lot more, was a lot drier. They put the ball in the right areas," he added.