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If batting clicks, we win

P akistan cricket team is in New Zealand for a series of limited-overs matches. The ...

If batting clicks, we win

akistan cricket team is in New Zealand for a series of limited-overs matches. The games in both 50 and 20-overs formats are going to be a tough task for the Pakistanis in challenging conditions.

Pakistan team consists of young players. Right now their morale is high as they have won the ICC Champions Trophy and the ODI and T20 series against Sri Lanka.

Batting on green-top wickets has always been difficult for the Pakistani batsmen. Pakistani batsmen mostly drive away from the body and send an outside edge to slips or the keeper. Not only the young but the experienced also can’t control their weaknesses. Muhammad Hafeez is one example.

But there are lots of hopes from the current team as young players under Sarfraz Ahmed are motivated to overcome the crunch situations.

They proved it in the only practice match against New Zealand XI before the ODI series when they beat the hosts by a massive 120 runs.

The positive aspect of the game was centuries from openers Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman. They provided over 200 opening stand but after them Babar Azam, Muhammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik got out cheaply. This will be a cause of worry for the captain and the management.

Winning and losing is part of the game, but the way Pakistani batsmen threw their wickets on green top seam-friendly strip is disappointing. They got out mostly behind the stumps. Handling short balls was also very tough for them.

New Zealand pace battery consisting of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner could create problem for Pakistan top order.

Pakistani batsmen, especially the top order, must be ready to face short balls from the Kiwi pacers. Players should overcome their weakness against short-pitched deliveries.

Overall Pakistan have had the upper hand against New Zealand in the One-day Internationals with 53 wins and 42 losses in 98 ODIs. But in the last four years, New Zealand have been the better side. From 2014 to 2017 team Pakistan played nine one-day internationals against them and lost seven and won only two. The lost the last six One-day Internationals.

The current New Zealand side is one of the best in a decade or so, especially in One-day Internationals. They were in outstanding form against the West Indies at home. Kiwis outclassed the tourists in Tests, ODIs and T20Is.

Currently New Zealand is the number one team in the ICC Twenty20 ranking while its opener Colin Munro and leg-break bowler Ish Sodhi enjoy the top position in the ICC T20 batsmen and bowlers list.

New Zealand won Tests by an innings and 67 runs and by 240 runs. In ODIs the West Indies were beaten by five wickets, 204 runs and 66 runs. The Kiwis also outclassed the visitors, winning by 47 runs and 119 runs. The second T20 was washed out.

Munro could create problem for the Pakistani bowlers. He is following his former captain Brendon McCullum’s style of attacking from the first ball. Munro showed his class when he became the first batsman to hit three T20 International hundreds. Munro has made 447 runs in his last ten Twenty20 matches at a high average of 49.66 and at a strike-rate of 182.44. With his innings in the T20 against the West Indies, New Zealand posted 243, their highest total ever.

The ODI and T20 series will be the test of Pakistan’s formidable bowling and New Zealand’s skillful batting. Pakistan bowling attack is much better than that of West Indies and able to restrict Munro and company.

Muhammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Ruman Raees, Shadab Khan and Muhammad Nawaz are all wicket-taking bowlers and able to bar the run flow.

But again Pakistan batting will decide the result. If the young guns Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam and Aamer Yamin along with experienced Azhar Ali, Muhammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik post a good total, bowlers will be able to defend it.

Pakistan former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq is the most successful batsmen in the Pakistan-New Zealand ODIs with 1283 runs in 45 matches, including one hundred and nine fifties at an average of 34.67. His 137 not out in April 1994 in Sharjah is the highest individual scored from both sides.

But former opener Saeed Anwar has more impressive record against New Zealand as he scored 1260 runs in just 32 matches, averaging 45, including four centuries and seven half-centuries.

For New Zealand former captain Stephen Fleming scored most 1090 runs in 34 One-day Internationals at the average of 34.06 with one hundred and five fifties.

Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram are the leading wicket-takers with 79 and 64 scalps, respectively. Danny Morrison remains the most successful bowler for New Zealand with 39 wickets.

New Zealand’s 379-5 in Napier in February 2015 is the highest total from both sides. Pakistan scored 364-7 came in Sharjah in December 2014.

New Zealand were bowled out for just 64 runs in Sharjah in 1986. Pakistan’s lowest total is 116 in Dambulla in May 2003.

Khurram Mahmood

Sports Khurram Mahmood

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