Pakistan are cricket’s version of ‘Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde’ because you never know which side will turn up to play on a given day. Their 49-run win over South Africa on Sunday (June 23) has kept their slim hopes of qualifying for the ICC World Cup semi-finals alive but for that to happen they first have to win all of their remaining games.
The task is not going to be a simple one as Sarfaraz Ahmed’s next challenge is going to be against the unbeaten New Zealand side, who are themselves hoping to seal a last-four berth with a win at Edgbaston on Wednesday (June 26). The Black Caps, unlike Pakistan, have played with precision led by their pace battery featuring the likes of Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson.
Skipper Kane Williamson has been in sublime form with the bat, scoring back-to-back hundreds against South Africa and West Indies to lead the run-charts for his side with 373 runs in four innings at an average of 186.5. Experienced Ross Taylor has continued his phenomenal run and averages 50 with the bat in the tournament so far.
After his first-ball duck against the West Indies, New Zealand will be tempted to bring in Henry Nichols to replace him at the top of the order.
Pakistan finally made the wise decision of dropping Shoaib Malik and bringing in Haris Sohail, who repaid the management’s faith by smashing 89 against South Africa. Sohail provided the much-needed impetus that Pakistan were lacking once the in-form Babar Azam departs.
Azam will be mindful that he needs to convert his fifties into bigger innings and possibly hundreds if Pakistan aspire to reach the semifinals. Pakistan’s bowlers led by Mohammed Amir along with Shadab Khan and Wahab Riaz ticked all the right boxes against South Africa.
However, Shaheen Shah Afridi’s form remains a concern and young tearaway Mohammed Hasnain could be given an opportunity in his place.
Last Five ODIs
New Zealand: W W NR W W
The 2015 World Cup runners-up have been undefeated in the tournament so far. They have won almost all of their games fairly comfortably with the only hiccups coming against Bangladesh and West Indies in their last game. One match against India was washed-out.
Pakistan: W NR L L W
They have been the most inconsistent side of the World Cup so far. After the high of defeating hosts England, their next game against Sri Lanka was rained-out. But that was followed by two disappointing losses in successive games to India and Australia. They have only barely managed to stay alive in the tournament thanks to win over South Africa.
Players to Watch Out for:
New Zealand: Lockie Ferguson: The young New Zealand pacer is their leading wicket-taker in the tournament so far. Ferguson has 14 scalps in five games at an average of 15.5 and has consistently hit over 90 mph in the World Cup. He’ll look to rattle the Pakistan batsmen with pace, who have shown vulnerability to fast bowling so far in the tournament.
Pakistan: Babar Azam: He has been Pakistan’s most consistent performer with the bat without setting the tournament on fire. Azam has 232 runs in five games with two half-centuries so far but has failed to carry on to score a century as Williamson has managed for New Zealand. But the youngster averages over 50 in the ODIs and has looked in fine touch so far.
New Zealand: Munro has been disappointing at the top of the order and Nichols, who has regained his fitness, could be tried by the Black Caps in his place.
Pakistan: Both Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali have had a disappointing World Cup so far. Young paceman Hasnain is one option that can be tried out by Pakistan.
Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Imam ul Haq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Shahdab Khan, Mohammed Hafeez, Mohammed Hasnain, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Mohammed Aamir, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Asif Ali.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Tom Blundell.