January 28, 2015
Start time 1400 local (0100 GMT)
Ahmed Shehzad has a highest score of 16 from his four innings on the tour so far © Getty Images
Pakistan hoped to pose a stiffer challenge to New Zealand than Sri Lanka did, but with two matches to go, their tour is threatening to go the same way as the previous one. The most recent loss was perhaps the most disheartening of their three on tour. Having held New Zealand by the collar at 99 for 6, Pakistan eased their grip – introducing spinners to hasten the over-rate – and the New Zealand lower order shoved them to the ground. Even with Mitchell McClenaghan in hospital, New Zealand eased to their eighth limited-overs victory in ten games.
As ever, there is an edge to this Pakistan attack, but they have also lacked the full breadth of limited-overs skill, at times. They had broken New Zealand’s batting open with swing, seam and pace, yet have had struggles with containing throughout the tour. There was also a seeming dearth of intent with ball and bat. With six wickets down by the 23rd over, they opted to reserve the quicks for later in the innings, instead of hunting for those last four scalps. Then the chase of 281 began slowly – only 33 coming from the Powerplay.
New Zealand have scrapped, jived and thrived despite everything that has been thrown at them. Four top players are ruled out of the next match, but such is the depth in their cricket at present that they have a bowler of Doug Bracewell’s quality to replace McClenaghan. Their middle order had seemed a weakness, but on Sunday it was Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner who revived the team with their seventh-wicket stand.
The weather may play a role in shortening this match, but the rains are forecast to clear by afternoon.
(last five matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: WWLWW
In the spotlight
The latest in New Zealand’s production line of exciting young players is Henry Nicholls, who on Sunday played virtually the perfect rebuilding innings, notwithstanding an edge to slip that was shelled early in his stay. Nicholls punished short balls as he established himself at the crease, then slipped into low-risk accumulation mode when the team lost more wickets. His talents have been noticed internationally as well – the Sydney Thunder picking him up for a two-match stint towards the end of the Big Bash League.
Ahmed Shehzad averages 32.28 in ODIs since the start of 2015, but of more concern might be his strike rate of 75.22. A hitter of flashy boundaries atop the innings, his ability to keep the scoreboard moving during the tougher periods has sometimes limited his game. After four low scores in the tour now, Shehzad will want to make an impactful contribution on what has traditionally been the best batting track in the country.
Luke Ronchi is rested for the last two matches, and BJ Watling replaces him.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt.), 4 Henry Nicholls, 5 Grant Elliott, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Adam Milne, 10 Matt Henry, 11 Trent Boult
Pakistan will probably keep their attack intact, but Shoib Malik is likely to come back into the middle order, having recovered from his injury. Sohaib Maqsood seems likeliest to make way.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Azhar Ali (capt.), 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Babar Azam, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Mohammad Rizwan, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Mohammad Amir, 11 Mohammad Irfan
Pitch and conditions
The McLean Park surface is usually full of runs, but the weather does not look promising. The forecast suggests there will be rain until the early afternoon, and cloud thereafter. A strong southerly wind is also expected.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand struck 369 and won by 119 runs when these teams last played in Napier, in February 2015
- Trent Boult became the top-ranked ODI bowler in the world after his four wickets in the first match. Matt Henry is seventh on that list, while Mohammad Irfan is tenth.
- Babar Azam has struck a fifty in half of his eight ODI innings so far
“The New Zealand fast bowlers seem to be going really well. They’ve got a few options up their sleeve and they’re rotating the guys. It’s exciting to be back in the mix.”
Fast bowler Doug Bracewell on being called up to a confident pace battery.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo