Jan 082018
 

NELSON: Pakistan’s nine-match One-day International unbeaten streak, since the Champions Trophy 2017, was brought to a screeching halt in Wellington. Pakistan, now, look to return to winning ways when they take on hosts New Zealand in the second game of the five-match series in Nelson on Tuesday.

That Pakistan warmed-up for this series with a comprehensive 120-run victory at the same venue would inspire confidence in the side that suffered a top-order disintegration on Saturday and eventually succumbed to a 61-run defeat (on DLS) in the rain-hit encounter. With a century in warm-ups and an unbeaten 82 in the series, opener Fakhar Zaman, has done reasonably well to negate any doubts of his ability to deliver in unfamiliar conditions, and Faheem Ashraf too looked promising in his brief cameo. But the sight of all other batsmen crumbling against the relentless attack of New Zealand’s new-ball bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult was concerning. The pair shared five of the six wickets between them, reducing the visitors to 54 for 5 at one stage before a brief fightback came through. The worry for Pakistan in these tough conditions is the indifferent form of two of their most experienced campaigners – Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez. Malik had been in good touch during the last ODI assignment against Sri Lanka in UAE, but doesn’t boast of a good record in New Zealand. Being sparingly used as a bowler, he’d want to turn it around quickly with the bat to be able to hold on to his spot in the side. Hafeez, too, is playing as a specialist batsman after receiving a second ban for illegal bowling action and the management would want the experienced star to do justice to his spot in the eleven. Having restricted oppositions to manageable scores all through their recent golden run, Pakistan were let down by their bowlers in Wellington. Rumman Raees, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali and Ashraf all conceded 57 or more runs each – all struggling in the extremely windy conditions – allowing the home team to pile on a 315-run total. The fearsome bowling attack will have to come to the party, and soon, for Pakistan to counter an in-form New Zealand batting. The hosts, meanwhile, have ticked all boxes from the word go. The openers have provided the platform, the middle order led by the ever-dependable captain Kane Williamson has capitalised and the bowlers have given nothing away in friendly conditions, making the home team a tough nut to crack even. However, the unpredictably magnificent phenomenon that this Pakistan team is – their turnaround at 2017 Champions Trophy and after a Test series whitewash to Sri Lanka still fresh in the minds – would keep the hosts on their toes. Traditionally, the pitch in Nelson is kind to slower bowlers as compared to most others in New Zealand. The rain is also likely to stay away on the game day, unlike the series opener. However, there are forecasts for evening showers and for the rest of the week.

New Zealand: The hosts wouldn’t want to change their winning combination unless the pitch throws up unexpected surprises at the eleventh hour. Despite the disappointment in Wellington, Pakistan are likely to field an unchanged side too. That said, there would be pressure on the two senior batters – Hafeez and Malik – to deliver the goods.

Squads: New Zealand XI (likely): Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.

Pakistan XI (likely): Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c, wk), Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees.

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