Can New Zealand overcome form, injury woes?
Match FactsFebruary 3, Hamilton
Start time 14:00 (01:00 GMT)
New Zealand have reason to feel exasperated. They have attempted everything to turn around their string of losses; in fact, there can be a case that they have tried too hard. They have brought in a capable new coach, rotated their players faster than a revolving door spins, tinkered around with the batting order, and even broken one of their most successful opening combinations. But at least one of their many old failings continues to crop up at crucial junctures.
If the misfiring top order manages to provide a good start, the middle order contrives to cave in. When the top order suffers one of its spectacular collapses after seemingly promising starts, the middle order gets involved in the repair job, and they end up with a below-par total. And on the rare occasion that the batsmen fire collectively, and the bowlers have kept the opposition in check, they inevitably manage to run in to a rampant batsman who takes the game away from their grasp. In the bowlers' defence, there just haven't been enough runs to play with, with the batsmen crossing 250 only thrice in the previous 14 matches, 13 of which have been lost.
If the fact that one more series is now on the line isn't motivation enough for the home team, they need look no further than their opponents. Despite all the issues surrounding the side, Pakistan have started to give the feeling of approaching somewhere close to being a settled side. The current captain and vice-captain have played major roles in their respective wins in the series, and the mutual admiration has overflowed from Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq. If some of that feel-good can translate into another match-winning performance, Pakistan will leave New Zealand with Test and one-day series wins, a massive achievement considering what has gone on in the previous six months.
(Last five completed games)
New Zealand: LLWLL
Players to watch out for …
Misbah-ul-Haq keeps adding facets to his game that no one expects him to. His idea of breaking free in limited-overs games used to be an ungainly bent-knee swipe that almost always never went beyond midwicket. But he has shown that he can find the boundaries when needed. His calm approach has impressed John Wright, the opposition coach, enough to say that the New Zealand batsmen can learn from Misbah how to hold the innings together.
Martin Guptill has looked assured, and has breezed away to solid starts throughout the series. The dismissals have been soft though - getting caught in the in-field while looking to work the ball away. If he can get over those momentary lapses, he could be the one who could do a Misbah for New Zealand.
Wright has hinted that the music is about to stop as far as the rotation chairs are concerned, and New Zealand will look to go in with their frontline side, injuries permitting. But different injuries are yet to allow Daniel Vettori (hamstring) and Jesse Ryder (finger) to be declared certainties for tomorrow. While Wright was hopeful about Ryder playing, Vettori remains a bigger doubt.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Jamie How/Jesse Ryder, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Ross Taylor, 4 Scott Styris, 5 Kane Williamson, 6 James Franklin, 7 Brendon McCullum (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori (capt)/Jacob Oram, 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Hamish Bennett.
Pakistan have been unchanged for the previous two games, and in a potential series-decider, could go in with the same XI again. Sohail Tanvir has been a bit expensive so far, but he also got his side home in Napier with three fours in six deliveries. That he comes in at No. 10 shows the depth Pakistan have in their batting.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Kamran Akmal (wk), 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi (capt), 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Umar Gul
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand's 350 for 9 against Australia in 2007 at Seddon Park remains their highest ODI total in New Zealand, and the second-highest in the country.
- New Zealand's 250 for 9 in the 3rd ODI is their second-highest total without any batsman making a half-century.
Quotes"His was exactly the type of innings we need. I think throughout this series he's been their glue, and we probably need some glue"
John Wright wants New Zealand to follow Misbah-ul-Haq's adhesive batting style.
"There's still an opportunity to win the series with two games coming up. I think the teams are relatively level. It's just that one individual performance wins the game."
Daniel Vettori believes that his side can turn it around.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo