NZ playing 'wonderful cricket' - Shehzad
Pakistan have spoken about being aggressive with bat and ball on tour, but Ahmed Shehzad has conceded that New Zealand are currently playing cricket that is "awesome to see".
The hosts' batsmen set New Zealand records during the 2-0 defeat of Sri Lanka last week, but Pakistan have not enjoyed good T20 form in recent months. They had also beaten Sri Lanka 2-0 in Colombo in the middle of last year, but were more recently whitewashed by England in a three-match T20 series in the UAE. They also lost a T20 to Bangladesh last year, though more positive results did come against Zimbabwe.
"New Zealand are playing wonderful cricket at the moment," Shehzad said. "We all know the style they playing with is awesome to see. We have to match them. We have to compete."
New Zealand's limited-overs game at home has been built around explosive starts from their opening pair, then swing, seam and bustling intensity from their seamers. Shehzad said Pakistan would have to raise their game to counter the hosts' formula.
"I think Brendon McCullum's done a good job," he said. "They're playing without any fear. There's no issues with their places. They're shuffling their players. Now they have a good bunch which is doing their job together. If any side is playing good cricket we have to appreciate that and try to match them. It raises your standards as well. We have to admit they are playing good cricket, but it's a T20 format. You have to execute your plans and flourish."
Pakistan had won their match against South Africa at Eden Park during last year's World Cup, and have also played one T20 there after the ground was reshaped for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Shehzad said his team were aware of the unique challenges Eden Park's small size and odd dimensions posed, but would rely on support staff to fine tune their strategy.
"Basically it's a rugby ground. It favours the batsmen. We're aware of that. We played quite a few matches here. We kind of know the trick here. Our management is very experienced - Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Grant Flower - the way they work with players, they pinpoint everything and tell us what to execute. We try our best to do that. Management are all cricketers and they know whether you're winning or lost, how to pick up the players."
Eden Park has at times been conducive to big scores, with England having hit 214 for 7 at the venue in 2013. However, batting teams have also been foiled by playing too aggressively at the venue, as had been the case for Sri Lanka on Sunday. The straight boundaries are particularly tempting, at less than 50m.
"We have to pick and choose our balls," Shehzad said. "Sometimes you play some rash shots when looking at the stadium and all these things, and you lose your wickets.. You can't be rash, or lose your wicket and let your team down. The boundaries at the side aren't very big either, but we have to play proper cricket."
New Zealand are trialling an uncapped T20 legspinner in Todd Astle in this series, and their other major slow-bowling option - Mitchell Santner - has himself played only two T20 internationals.
"At the moment their spin is one area where any team can target them," Shehzad said. "I think in this ground, they won't use that spin. They will come hard at us - that's what we're planning for at the moment. I'm sure we won't be able to see lots of spin here - maybe a couple of overs here or there. They will try to stick to their strength which is fast bowling and batting."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando