T20 World Cup: High-flying Pakistan eye successive victory
Pakistan made an exceptional start to their ICC T20 World Cup 2021 campaign with an emphatic win against the arch-rivals India by 10 wickets.
The Men-In-Green will now face New Zealand in their second game of the tournament in Sharjah Cricket Stadium today.
The toss will play a big role in deciding the result of the game as the dew factor might come into play later in the evening. Therefore, the captain who will win the toss will likely opt to bowl first.
Pakistan have an upper hand against the Black Caps as they have won 14 matches lost just 10 in the 24 contests they have played each other.
It is the first time that The Green Shirts and New Zealand will come face to face in Sharjah.
Other than that, the 2009 World Champions have won three of the five T20 World Cup contests against Kane Williamson’s men, while New Zealand defeated Pakistan in their last World Cup contest in Mohali in 2016.
Keeping the recent form in mind, Pakistan have a slight edge over New Zealand. Both the teams are well-balanced and have players in their ranks who can turn the game in their team’s favour at any moment.
Azam, Rizwan Opening duo
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan delivered what was expected from them in the opening contest and registered a 152-run opening partnership, contributing 68 and 79 runs, respectively. If they click once again, the Men-in-Green can easily register their second successive win in the marquee tournament and become a strong contender for a spot in the semi-finals.
Strong spin department
Imad Wasim can trouble New Zealand during the powerplay as he can contain the flow of runs and put their batters under pressure. However, the left-arm slow bowler has not shown the best of his performances against the Kiwis as he has taken only five wickets in nine matches and conceded runs at an economy rate of 7.90.
Muhammad Hafeez can play a key role for his team in today’s encounter because he has an impressive record against left-handed batters. He has dismissed left-handed batters 64 times in his career across all formats.
The Kiwis have a few left-handed batters in their line-up, including their emerging star Devon Conway and hard-hitting all-rounders Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner.
Fast bowling Unit
Shaheen Shah Afridi has been phenomenal for his team. He was the one who set the tone for Pakistan’s thumping victory over India by getting rid of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in his first two overs.
Moreover, the kind of intelligence and control that Haris Rauf exhibited in the contest against the arch-rivals, he can be a nightmare for the opposition in the final overs of the inning, where he can mix up his 145-150 kph deliveries with slower ones.
Pakistan have a top-heavy batting attack with the Babar-Rizwan combo opening the inning. However, their middle-order has been fragile. If Rizwan and Babar fail at the top of the line-up, their batting line may collapse as all of their batters, including experienced Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, have been extremely inconsistent.
New Zealand’s strengths
The Black Caps have immense potential when it comes to batting. The right-handed opening batter Martin Guptill has scored the most – 509 runs – against Pakistan in the limited-over format at a strike rate of 136.46.
Furthermore, their new breed of batters, including Devon Conway and Glenn Phillips are capable enough to take the game away from the opposition in a couple of overs. They are fearless and strong hitters.
Strong pace attack
Williamson and Co have one of the most destructive bowling attacks headed by Tim Southee. The right-arm fast bowler will be accompanied by Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson. Altogether, the trio has bagged 27 wickets against Men-in-Green in the T20Is.
Unimpressive spin attack
Afghanistan proved in their encounter against Scotland that spinners will play a major role in Sharjah. However, New Zealand do not have any exceptional spin bowler in their arsenal. Santner is intelligent with his limited variations and can curtail runs, while Sodhi is a wicket-taker but can prove to be expensive.
Williamson injury scare
Meanwhile, there is bad news for the reigning Test Champions, as their skipper, Kane Williamson, is not 100 percent fit as his elbow injury flared up after the warm-up match against Australia last week. Williamson has described his injury as an ‘ongoing battle’.
If the 31-year-old is not completely fit for the game, it could be disastrous for his team.
Pakistan are likely to enter the field with the same squad side that finally broke the shackles of winning a World Cup fixture against India on Sunday as their performance was arguable flawless.
Babar Azam, Mohammed Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Hasan Ali, Harris Rauf, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohamed Nawaz, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Mohammed Wasim, Sohaib Maqsood.
Kane Williamson (captain), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.
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