New Zealand eye sweep against misfiring Pakistan
Match FactsDecember 30, Christchurch
Start time 19.00 (06.00 GMT)
The Big Picture
Before this series, New Zealand were in total disarray, having endured 14 successive defeats at the international level, and seemingly without a plan. Two Twenty20 matches were all it took to change the vibe in their side. It was made possible by the influx of players who hadn't been a part of the misadventures in the subcontinent. Adam Milne hustled away with Shane Bond-like pace, Peter McGlashan's innovative reverse sweeps left Umar Gul - a Twenty20 expert - looking out of place, and Luke Woodcock stunted a rampant chase with a tight spell. Suddenly, all of New Zealand's experiments have begun to work and they look good for the remainder of the tour.
It is unlikely that the hosts will drop their intensity in Christchurch. It has taken a lot of effort to end the losing streak and Ross Taylor's men will want to savour the taste of victory for as long as possible.
Things don't look so bright for Pakistan though. Despite all the controversies, they were expected to stand up in the Twenty20s - after all it was the format least likely to test their admittedly thin resources. Yet, while they have managed to challenge Australia, England and South Africa in the longer formats, their T20 form has nosedived, and they have now lost six on the trot. The problem seems to stem from their team composition, with a fragile and inexperienced top order failing to put enough runs on the board for their accomplished six-man attack to work with. Given that the AMI Stadium is another rugby-cum-cricket ground that will wrong-foot the best of bowlers, Pakistan may find merit in going the other way and loading up on their batting.
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New Zealand: WWLWL
Watch out for...
Ross Taylor has made two steady, but crucial, contributions lower down the order, and in both games, his intent to stay around till the end was obvious - a big improvement from the one-dayers in India when he often fell at key moments. Martin Guptill's form at the top has allowed Taylor to play a guiding role in the second half, but expect the captain to step on the gas in Christchurch.
Younis Khan's return to the Twenty20 side has so far yielded five runs in two innings. He is, however, too good a player to fail three times on the trot. Another player due to come good is Abdul Razzaq whose manic hitting left South Africa dazed in a recent one-dayer in UAE. He showed signs of finding his range in Hamilton, and the crowds in Christchurch can expect him to send a few their way.
With the series in the bag, New Zealand have decided to give Brendon McCullum more time to rest his back, which means McGlashan will continue to keep wicket. Each member in their 14-member squad has got a chance in the first two matches, and they are likely to fiddle with the line-up some more in the third game. Will Adam Milne get another go?
New Zealand (probable): 1 Jesse Ryder, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Dean Brownlie, 4 Scott Styris, 5 Ross Taylor (capt), 6 James Franklin, 7 Peter McGlashan (wk), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Kyle Mills / Adam Milne, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Luke Woodcock
Pakistan seem to have got their combination wrong - only eight of the 16 members in the squad, including allrounders Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq, are batsmen. Afridi may have to give up the opening slot and add substance to a misfiring middle order. Sohail Tanvir is yet to get a chance and, if picked, his unusual delivery stride could rein New Zealand's batsmen in.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Ahmed Shahzad , 3 Shahid Afridi (capt), 4 Younis Khan, 5 Fawad Alam / Asad Shafiq, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Umar Gul, 9 Wahab Riaz / Sohail Tanvir 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Shoaib Akhtar
Stats and trivia
- Afridi's average as an opener is 17.75, but it jumps up to 38.00 when he drops to No. 3, though the strike-rate falls from 191.89 to 139.44
- With 25 wickets to their names, Nathan McCullum and Kyle Mills are New Zealand's second highest wicket-takers along with Shane Bond. Daniel Vettori leads the list with 35
"Getting that first win was something special for us ... It had been a while and obviously to do it back-to-back was even more special. Hopefully we will continue with confidence from now on."
Nathan McCullum doesn't want to relax now that New Zealand have ended their losing streak
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo