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Cricket One-Day International Preview: New Zealand v Pakistan

As the countdown to the Cricket World Cup continues, co-hosts New Zealand begin a two-match series against Pakistan.

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New Zealand's preparations for the Cricket World Cup will step up a gear when they open a two-match series against Pakistan on Saturday.

The Black Caps ended a seven-match one-day rubber against Sri Lanka with defeat in Wellington on Thursday.

Set 288 to win after Kumar Sangakkara hit 113, New Zealand were bowled out for 253 with only stand-in captain Kane Williamson passing 50. His 54 was not enough but New Zealand had already won the series, which ended 4-2.

Next for New Zealand - who will co-host the World Cup with Australia - is a brief series against Pakistan before pre-tournament warm-up matches begin.

The series opener will be held at Wellington.

Confidence is growing in New Zealand ahead of the World Cup, given their side's impressive depth and excellent recent record in one-day cricket.

They have won seven of their last 11 completed ODIs and appear well-placed for a tilt at one-day cricket's greatest prize.

Thursday's game was played at Wellington's Basin Reserve, a venue that will be used during the World Cup, and Williamson said his side could take plenty from the match, despite defeat.

"Our middle to lower order all had good time in the middle," he said at the post-match presentation.

"We kept pushing the game forward, but unfortunately we were unable to get over the line. In the field we were very good [though].

"There are a lot of things to take from the surface. It does have a bit of dew that comes in later so we will have to consider that going into the World Cup.

"Sri Lanka have put us under pressure at times [during this series]. [But I] am pleased with how the boys have gone too."

Williamson hit 295 runs in five matches against Sri Lanka, while wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi added 279 including a spectacular maiden one-day century.

Left-arm quick Mitchell McClenaghan (10 wickets) also impressed as he staked his claim for a spot in New Zealand's World Cup opener - to be played against Sri Lanka on February 14.

Pakistan played a warm-up game against a New Zealand Board President's XI in Lincoln earlier this week, losing by one wicket.

Captain Misbah-ul-Haq (88 not out) and Umar Akmal (77) both spent valuable time in the middle but a bowling attack missing the injured Junaid Khan could do nothing to stop home opener Michael Pollard, who smashed 153 from 132 balls.

The New Zealand side won with one ball to spare in a thrilling conclusion, and the tourists will need to improve.

Junaid is still battling a thigh injury and is not likely to feature in the short series, with Bilawal Bhatti having been drafted in as his replacement.

New Zealand and Pakistan battled it out in a one-day series as recently as December last year, with the Black Caps' 3-2 win in the Middle East seen as a significant sign of progress.

Williamson again starred in that series, hitting 346 runs at an average of 86.50, while Ross Taylor (252 runs) also played a key role.

Haris Sohail and Shahid Afridi each passed 200 runs for Pakistan and New Zealand's Matt Henry was the leading bowler with 13 wickets.

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