Historymakers Pakistan completed their second consecutive series sweep after trouncing New Zealand by 47 runs in the final T20I of the three-match series – after the 3-0 win over Australia – in Dubai on Sunday (November 4th) thus winning their ninth successive T20I match and with that, their 11th successive series in the format. They will now turn their sights to the 3-match ODI series that begins on 07th November knowing fully well their frailties in the format. Coming on the back of a disastrous Asia Cup but successful Australia series on similar tracks 5th-ranked Pakistan will go into the series against the 3rd-ranked Kiwis as marginal underdogs. For no particular reason but the fact that they seem to enjoy the shortest format and seem more suited to it.
A point in focus is Kane Williamson’s reading of the Pakistan template that the hosts have executed flawlessly in their consecutive wins. So when Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and chose to bat in the third and final T20I, Williamson had a clear idea of the script that would follow: runs on the board and spin strangulation in the middle overs of the second-half. Well this works fine over a period of 20 overs. ODI cricket is a whole different ball game.
The last time the two sides met in a full fledged ODI series was in January this year and the Kiwis blanked Pakistan 5 – 0 in the five match series.
The New Zealand series was originally slated to be played in Malaysia but Pakistan have been forced to play their “home” matches in the UAE since terrorists attacked the bus of the visiting Sri Lankan team in March 2009. Although Pakistan have hosted a few international matches between 2015-18, Australia and New Zealand refused to visit the country due to security fears. Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 while New Zealand’s last tour was in 2003.
November 07th, Wednesday – 1st ODI
Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, 04.30pm
November 09th, Friday – 2nd ODI
Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, 04.30pm
November 11th, Sunday – 3rd ODI
Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai, 04.30pm
Head-to-Head in One-Day Internationals (Since 1973)
Total Played: 103
Pakistan won: 53
New Zealand won: 47
No Result: 2
First Match: Only ODI, New Zealand won by 22 runs at Lancaster Park, Christchurch on February 11, 1973 (40-over match)
Last Match: 5th ODI; New Zealand won by 15 runs Basin Reserve, Wellington on January 19th, 2018
The debate about Pakistan‘s form in ODIs continues to rage. The glory and elation of the Champions Trophy win in 2017 has faded. The focus now is on the ICC World Cup in 2019. Pakistan’s performance in the recently concluded Asia Cup left many of its supporters worried about the team’s prospects of having a chance to win the World Cup. Post the Asia Cup, the ever vibrant cricket savvy media in Pakistan started zeroing in on captain Sarfraz’s poor run with the bat. They attributed the mistakes he made on the field, as captain, to his poor form with the bat. Grumblings about his future as captain and maybe even as a player in the ODI side began to build steam. Coach Arthur and his over-controlling methods faced renewed criticism as well.
Pressure on the selectors to tinker with team selection methodology began to formulate on social media. And then all of a sudden the Aussies came to town. With them, came their high reputation as winners. The fear of another Asia Cup like debacle was real and imminent. In an unguarded moment of frustration, Sarfraz had let the world know during the Asia Cup that the pressure from losing was keeping him awake at night. So, in the wake of the Australia series, questions about his state of mind and his ability to withstand pressure began to arise. Fortunately for Pakistan and Sarfraz, when all seemed lost, things turned around dramatically, albeit in Test and T20 formats – not in ODIs. Sarfraz found form with the bat and along with it returned his confidence to lead his team to moments of glory again. The Australian tour was a resounding success for Pakistan and the team are anxious to face New Zealand next.
Pakistan will be playing their first ODI since the Asia Cup 2018 and will have Mohammad Hafeez back after strong performances in the Tests and T20Is. Imad Wasim too was recalled following his comeback in the T20 format for Pakistan. Mohammad Amir is still out of the side, so the pressure will be on Shaheen Afridi and Junaid Khan to deliver.
New Zealand is no slouch and has a reputation as a hard working team that always challenges its opponents even in unfamiliar overseas conditions. In the T20 series, Pakistan once again, like they did against Australia, played with maturity, confidence, and consistency to dismiss the Kiwis fairly comfortably. Now, the ODI series is a couple of days away. However, the road to victory in the ODI series may not be that smooth. Pakistan’s resolve in ODIs will once again be tested.
The thing is that the Kiwis last played international cricket in March. It’s a rare luxury to be out of action for so long in this modern age, where teams are resting players out of sheer exhaustion. After such a long break you would expect their players would be raring to go. Even without Martin Guptill, sidelined by a calf-strain, the visitors have a strong top-order in Colin Munro, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. Corey Anderson has been ruled out of the ODI with a heel injury which kept him out of the third T20I as well. It has been reported that Todd Astle will also miss the first ODI and it is unclear whether he will be fit enough to come back later in the series. New Zealand is already without their regulars Martin Guptill and Mitchell Santner. Tom Latham is expected to open the innings with Colin Munro in the absence of Guptill. With all these injury concerns, the Kane Williamson’s side will be under some pressure going into this one-day series.
Craig McMillan, New Zealand’s batting coach, admits it is difficult for players to adapt to the hot and humid conditions in the UAE and that he has resorted to different methods to get the players in groove – one of them being training under lights. “We’re mixing it up,” McMillan said. “A lot of them have come from four-day, red-ball cricket, so getting back into white-ball and T20 especially [is hard]. So throwing different scenarios at them, putting them under pressure, seeing how they react and how they find a way to win the game.
McMillan feels the success of the 2014 tour, where New Zealand drew the Tests and T20Is and won the ODIs 3-2, should come in handy.
Kane Williamson(c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling
Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Usman Khan
The Abu Dhabi pitch produced some good games of cricket during the Asia Cup, even though the matches were not high-scoring. The wicket is expected to be slow and should favor the spinners. The team batting first is likely to have an advantage. The weather will be hot and dry throughout the day, with little dew available during the evening.
New Zealand will present a stiff challenge to Pakistan as Kane Williamson and co. have been playing well across all three formats over the past 18 months and we can expect a series much closer than what we saw with the Australians, for whom it was their first Test series since the infamous ball-tampering row during the Cape Town match against South Africa in March.
Ready for Some Real Action Folks!
Who is your Super 8?
Leagues up in the Lobby, Go get ’em champs!