NZ pull-out sets up the scene as Pakistan look to exact on-field revenge

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25 Oct 2021 | 02:00 PM
authorBastab K Parida

NZ pull-out sets up the scene as Pakistan look to exact on-field revenge

With so many stories to explore and many eyeballs fixed on the eventual outcome, the feistiness will take centre stage

This World Cup is full of surprises already. Even though the hype might not have caught up, the fact that the likes of Namibia and Scotland have entered the Super 12 phase without breaking a sweat, the fact that Ireland and Netherlands massively underperformed in the Qualifiers and now, Sri Lanka looking like a side that means business, we can very well be within a storm of pleasant surprises over the next couple of weeks or so. 

To add to the drama, Pakistan played like world champions to thrash India by 10 wickets on Sunday which added a completely new dimension to the Group 2 dynamics and it will all be tested to the limit when they take on New Zealand at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday evening.

This will have a backdrop as well. As much as the cricketing would like to ignore the past and attempt to move on, Pakistan remember so well the hurt and the disappointment they had to endure when New Zealand decided to pull out of their tour citing security concerns. 

It was a mighty blow to the Asian nation’s ambition to invite bigger teams to their land and resume full-fledged cricket, which had so, unfortunately, missed the sport for over a decade now. The underlying reflection between two unrelatable realities, however, can only mean one thing - Pakistan will walk into the park super-charged.

The Contest

Shaheen Shah Afridi set the platform for the resounding win against India, but it was down to how Pakistan openers Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam responded that made the story. However, this was always expected. The duo have averaged 67.3 as an opening pair, which is the highest for an opening pair in the history of T20Is and since last year they both have scored over 800 runs together. 

Rizwan is in the form of his life and nothing can depict it better than the fact that no batter, be it, full members or associates, has scored more runs in a single year than Rizwan’s 831 runs this year. Babar isn’t far behind him as he has scored close to 600 runs, which is again, amongst the best for a batter in a single year. It is natural they will hold the key to Pakistan’s success in Sharjah where the challenge will be pretty different from what they witnessed in Dubai.

While they can only do so much, they will expect Shaheen Shah Afridi to be in the thick of things once again. Shaheen is an extremely impactful bowler in the powerplay, having taken 41 wickets in that phase in T20s since 2020, which is the most for any bowler. 19 of Afridi’s 41 wickets in the powerplay have come in the first over of the innings, which would worry the New Zealand top-order, who haven’t been in the best of form, of late. 

Martin Guptill is struggling for form for a while now and leaving out Finn Allen and Colin Munro means Tim Seifert will open the innings. Seifert’s keeping is excellent in the last few years but the returns with the bat have been mediocre. In three matches that he has played in UAE, he scored a combined total of 11 runs at an average of 3.66. 

New Zealand will be confident with the fact that they have Devon Conway and Glenn Phillips, the Kiwis have two batters who can take the game away from the opposition’s clutch in a flash. After making his T20I debut in November 2020, Conway has already taken a huge stride on the international stage, most notably scoring 99 not out off just 59 balls against Australia last February. 

While an average of 59.13 is staggering over a period of 14 matches, he strikes them at 151.1 that makes him an irresistible proposition. He will be supported by Glenn Phillips and Kane Williamson, the latter arguably being the best T20 anchor going around, in the middle overs.

They also have a bowling unit, worth its weight in the diamond. Lockie Ferguson’s raw pace was utilized well by Kolkata Knight Riders in the recently-concluded IPL and especially in the Dubai leg. In 13 IPL matches since IPL 2020, Ferguson has picked 19 wickets at 19.6. Tim Southee, despite consciously moving away from franchise cricket to manage workload, has been one of the best seamers in T20I cricket for years. Then there’s Trent Boult, a giant in his own right, who can blow off the steam to don the enforcer role in both powerplay and middle-overs. 

With so many stories to explore and many eyeballs fixed on the eventual outcome, the feistiness will take centre stage. But will New Zealand buy into it? Well, Tuesday will answer all questions in no uncertain terms.

Probable XIs

New Zealand: Devon Conway, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (C), Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Jimmy Neesham, Tim Seifert (wk), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult.

Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi

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Pakistan vs New ZealandICC World Twenty20, 2021PakistanNew ZealandBabar AzamKane WilliamsonDevon ConwayGlenn PhillipsShaheen Afridi

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