WT20 : New Zealand vs Pakistan World T20 Preview
Afridi backs Pakistan to bounce back after India defeat, while New Zealand aims to maintain its winning run to emulate their Women’s squad who made three wins in three matches.
In the ICC World T20 2016 so far, New Zealand, who beat India by 47 runs, prevailed over Australia by eight runs and plays Bangladesh in its final Group B Super 10s fixture, is best placed to top the table and enter the semis. But Pakistan, who has had mixed fortunes so far, believes it could be in with a serious chance to be the other semifinalist from the pool if it beats Kane Williamson’s men at the PCA IS Bindra Stadium on Tuesday (March 22).
Pakistan’s 55-run win against Bangladesh was a complete performance, as the top order made runs and the bowlers delivered. Against India, it was possibly a spinner short in defending 118 as Virat Kohli produced a masterclass. But, form and conditions hardly are a factor when it comes to Pakistan. The more the odds are against the side, the deeper it digs to surprise everyone.
Shahid Afridi, the captain, who has been a part of many such spectacular turnarounds, was in familiar territory when he came for the pre-match press conference, and he was confident in backing his side.
“Even before the tournament started, people had written us off. But, I have stayed away from Twitter and Facebook,” he said. “Right now, all we can do is perform well. If you create a panic situation in the team then it is difficult to sort out things. Miracles always don’t work in cricket. We have to stop repeating small mistakes and play good cricket … There is a time to talk and there is a time to act. Now is the time to act on what has been spoken. We spoke over two days and planned, and tomorrow is action time.
“As a captain, I am just concerned about my team’s and my performance. I have belief in my and team’s ability that we will make the best use of our skills in tomorrow’s game,” he added. “New Zealand are a good team, they have been playing good cricket for a few years now, but conditions are different. It’s also a different event and we have the hunger to win the next match.”
Mike Hesson, New Zealand’s coach, was wary of Pakistan’s volatile nature. His team’s familiarity with the opposition after having beaten it 2-1 in a bilateral T20I series at home in January could work both ways, he felt.
“They are unpredictable, but very skilful. They have got a lot of pace of left-arm variety and with (Mohammad) Irfan they have a difference in terms of bounce. Their bowling attack is very challenging, completely different from what we had faced in the last two games,” said Hesson. “We are fortunate to have played them recently. Whether that makes them less predictable or just gives us more information [remains to be seen]. As a batting unit, they are relatively predictable in the way they play and that gives us more opportunity with the ball.”
Staying with unpredictability, no team has surprised more in this tournament than New Zealand. Its decision to drop Tim Southee and Trent Boult for the game against India in Nagpur raised eyebrows, but the team management was proved right. A similar trial by spin did Australia in.
With a bit more breathing space available than the other teams, New Zealand has a chance to give Southee and Boult some game time on a green pitch so that they are match-ready before a potential knockout game. Hesson, however, was not looking beyond the immediate goal of beating Pakistan.
“Mohali is probably more like New Zealand conditions than perhaps Nagpur and Dharamsala,” he said. “We certainly are not thinking about the knockouts yet. Appreciate that thought (from the media) though. We will look up that pitch tomorrow; the pitch will be covered overnight and will dry up a bit. We will pick a side that suits the conditions and the opposition, but won’t be thinking too far ahead.”
With both teams fully tuned on, the expected full house is sure to get its money’s worth.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott, Colin Munro, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Ross Taylor, Adam Milne, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Sami, Khalid Latif.