Is New Zealand Strong Enough to Beat Pakistan at Home?
On Sunday, cricket fans witnessed Pakistan seal the cap as to how good they truly are at T20 cricket. After beating Australia in the third T20I by thirty three runs and winning the series three nil, Pakistan remained at the top of the T20I rankings and surpassed several records in the process.
Following Sunday’s conclusion, Pakistan have won ten consecutive T20I series under the captaincy of Sarfaraz Ahmed, have bowled out opponents thirty times, the most by any international team, thirty-seven year old veteran Shoaib Malik broke the record for most T20I catches and Babar Azam returned to number one in the batting rankings.
What Pakistan did against Australia in the T20Is was far more than impressive, and the Boys in Green will only have more opportunities to make their name as New Zealand’s tour of the UAE (Pakistan’s home ground) kicks off on Halloween with another three T20Is.
What did Pakistan do so well against Australia? Nearly EVERYTHING. They utilized the spin of Imad Wasim perfectly in the first two T20Is in the opening overs, they properly planned their pace attack, seeing Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali and Usman Shinwari all picking up wickets. Their opening line failed to fail with Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, and especially Babar Azam amassing runs, with Azam amassing 163 runs in three innings. The fielding was superb, and although there were a few dropped catches, Pakistan rarely failed to chase the ball to the boundary and prevented Australia from gaining the runs they could have.
Although Pakistan are going to continue playing in the UAE, New Zealand is not Australia. New Zealand beat Pakistan in the initial T20 of their last T20I series in New Zealand and made it to the finals of the Trans-Tasman trophy, against England and Australia. Also, unlike their neighbors Australia, New Zealand will have their big-name batsmen, including Captain Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson, Colin Munro and Ross Taylor.
Looking at the teams, New Zealand has made a few changes due to the absence of Martin Guptill and have added some strength to their bowling attack. To fill for Guptill, New Zealand brought in Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman, who have just beaten Pakistan A 2-1 in a T20I series in Dubai for New Zealand A.
The bowling line is headlined by the inclusion of Ajaz Patel, a left-arm spinner who is uncapped in T20Is, but has featured for New Zealand in One-Day Internationals in the past. Patel has been very successful, also being a part of the New Zealand A team and being awarded Domestic Player of the Year last year.
Pakistan’s successful squad is unchanged after the Australia series. Going into the first T20I, the spinners Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan should retain their positions, but the captain Sarfaraz Ahmed will have to juggle between either playing Usman Shinwari or Shaheen Afridi. The batting line-up could use one change though. Asif Ali has failed to perform in all three T20Is against the Aussies, which could push for Hussain Talat to be re-included in the starting XI.
If Pakistan wins this series, it will be their eleventh consecutive series win, all under captain/wicket keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed. Although New Zealand has not played since Spring, their players have been in action in domestic leagues and for the New Zealand A squad. The first T20I will be at Abu Dhabi, with the rest two at Dubai. Abu Dhabi usually hosts a slower wicket, with the average first innings score being just 147.
The first T20I is on Halloween, October 31, with the rest on November 2nd & 4th. All matches begin at 20:00 (8:00 PM) UAE Time or 12:00 PM Eastern Time. The matches will be broadcasted live on PTV Sports in Pakistan, Sky Sports in New Zealand and the UK, and on Willow TV in the United States.