After losing the ODI series, a journalist asked Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur what the first thought on his mind was. “When is our flight?” replied Arthur instantly. That’s the kind of gallows humour prevailing in New Zealand among the Pakistan camp. Nearly a month-long tour has turned into a miserable campaign, with Pakistan now having lost 13 consecutive completed international matches against New Zealand.
This gloomy tour to New Zealand has undone all the hard work Pakistan have done over the last six months. They were blown away in the ODI series, and, with a change of format, the world No. 2 T20I side was dismantled in the opening game. They have a chance to keep the series alive and head into the third and final game with some pride, and something worth playing for. They have already tried every player on the tour barring Ahmed Shehzad – given ample time to adjust to the conditions, to no avail.
New Zealand, meanwhile, have continued their ruthless domination and must be overflowing with confidence given their form this season. It’s hard to pick a flaw in this impossibly dynamic side, which has every base covered. They have also nailed the rotation policy so far. Their bench strength has been superb, and coach Mike Hesson’s aims of improving the depth in the New Zealand squad are being quickly realised. Pakistan will attest to that.
New Zealand WWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Ish Sodhi is the world’s top-ranked T20 bowler, but can’t seem to get a game for New Zealand in any of the longer formats. That may frustrate him, but so would his bowling in the first T20I. The legspinner failed to cash in as Pakistan fell for 105, conceding 25 in four overs and ending up wicketless. There have been calls within New Zealand to give Sodhi more game time across formats. With stellar performances in the next two T20Is, those calls will only grow louder.
Former PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan, who had appointed Sarfraz Ahmed captain, has hinted that the management needs to assess if the captain is being overburdened. He has looked particularly miserable on what has come to look like a long, arduous tour. He has tinkered with the combination, batted first and bowled first, and made every possible move to spur Pakistan on to their first win on the tour. But his own performance with the bat as well as the gloves has been uninspiring and, while that remains the case, he’s unlikely to spur the team on successfully. He will be intelligent enough to recognise that.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Glenn Phillips (wk), 5 Tom Bruce, 6 Ross Taylor, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Ben Wheeler/Seth Rance, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Ish Sodhi
Pakistan played a somewhat surprise XI in the opening game, leaving out two experienced batsmen in Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez. The move didn’t work out and there will be another reshuffle, with Shehzad expected to return.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Haris Sohail, 5 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 6 Shadab Khan, 7 Aamer Yamin, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Mohammad Nawaz, 10 Hasan Ali/Rumman Raees, 11 Mohammad Amir
Pitch and conditions
Eden Park is a small ground, where even mis-hits can comfortably clear the rope. The pitch may offer assistance to the spin bowlers, but batsmen will fancy their chances after a low-scoring game in Wellington. Rain is not expected to play a part.