New Zealand v Pakistan, 1st T20, Auckland January 14, 2016

Amir in focus as Pakistan run into red-hot New Zealand


Match facts

January 15, 2016
Start time 1900 local (0600 GMT)

Play 01:42
Pakistan's well-rounded pace attack could pose New Zealand with a sterner test as both teams would look to fine-tune their preparations for the World T20

Big Picture

New Zealand have batsmen in a record-breaking mood. Pakistan are hoping reignite their T20 game after losses against England. There is a World T20 in two months. But none of this is as compelling as the return of one of cricket's exiles. Friday will mark a major step in Mohammad Amir's quest for redemption.

Every no-ball he delivers over the next few years will probably bring to mind that infamous second day at Lord's, in 2010. But he seems a little more mature now. In this recent interview, Amir spoke of having a fast bowler's anger "in the blood", yet of having accepted the fact that even his team-mates have a right to express displeasure at his inclusion. He spoke of "learning about life" during tough times, and of wanting to convince his critics, and win over fans.

Most of all, he spoke of having changed, only, let us hope that does not extend to his bowling. He had been one of the world's most absorbing talents during his brief pre-fixing career. Pakistan fans will remember sublime Test spells in England, in Leeds against Australia, and at The Oval against England. Or his superb use of the short ball in the first over of the 2009 World T20 final, where tournament top-scorer Tillakaratne Dilshan was first subdued, then overcome. In a brush with top-level T20 cricket at the Bangladesh Premier League in November, the skill in Amir's wrist, and the rhythm in his legs seemed not to have deserted him. Unlike the many volcanoes in Auckland's city limits, Amir's dormant days are finally over.

There are trials to come, beyond the fast bowler's usual plight of having to stay fit and take wickets. A major tour of England in the middle of the year promises to be a media circus, and on that front at least, New Zealand has been a relatively relaxed place in which to begin his reintegration. Maybe when he starts to bowl again, if he bowls just like he used to, cricket may find it easier to forgive him.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: WWWLW
Pakistan: LLLWW

In the spotlight

Corey Anderson is still playing as a specialist batsman as he continues to recover from back injury, but he has been handed a new role with the bat. Moved up to no. 4 in the order, he is now charged with batting freely, and maintaining the top order's momentum, as Ross Taylor - when he plays - is expected to provide insurance at no. 5 . Anderson is an increasingly versatile player, but his progress in an unfamiliar role in this series may determine whether New Zealand stick with this top order combination for the World T20.

With Umar Gul having had injury problems, and played only one T20 in the past year, Wahab Riaz appears the de-facto leader of the Pakistan attack. He had had a southern summer of resurgence last time he was in these climes, taking 16 wickets at 23 at the World Cup. One of his better spells had come at Eden Park, during Pakistan's fervent defence of 232 against South Africa. It may be up to Wahab to set the example in bowling those slightly shorter lengths that are generally more successful at the venue.

Teams news

Legspinner Todd Astle would prefer to make his T20 debut in a larger ground, but he may play in the team over Mitchell Santner, whom New Zealand have already had a look at. Matt Henry, Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan and Trent Boult are also playing for three spots between them. Tom Latham may play for the rested Ross Taylor.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Kane Williamson (capt), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Colin Munro 4 Corey Anderson, 5 Tom Latham, 6 Grant Elliott, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Todd Astle, 9 Matt Henry, 10 Mitchell McClenaghan, 11 Trent Boult

Anwar Ali and Gul are likely competing for one place. If Pakistan prefer experience, there's little doubt as to who they would choose. Sohaib Maqsood was hit in the neck at training, but is expected to be fit to play.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Sohaib Maqsood, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 7 Shahid Afridi (capt), 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Anwar Ali/Umar Gul, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Mohammad Amir

Pitch and conditions

The drop-in pitch at Eden Park is usually full of runs, but can turn, at times. The weather is expected to be dry, if a little cloudy, with temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius.

Stats and trivia

  • Amir took 14 wickets at an average of 12.64 and an economy rate of 5.56 in the Bangladesh Premier League in November-December last year. He has 23 wickets in 18 T20 internationals.
  • The first T20 at Mount Maunganui is the only occasion in which Corey Anderson has batted in the top four in 11 T20 innings.
  • New Zealand have played 11 T20s at Eden Park, and won six of those games.


"I would say you'd like 100-metre boundaries, but I guess that presents its own challenges. If you restrict you can create chances to take wickets. In this format you know anything is possible."

New Zealand legspinner Todd Astle on the prospect of debuting at Eden Park

"Before coming here we had a fitness camp as well, for a couple of weeks. Everybody worked really hard. If you have a hard fitness training camp, what it does is bring us all together. That's important for any side. It helps to understand each other more. All the juniors and the seniors - it's no different at the moment. We're all pumped up and trying to give 100 per cent."

Pakistan batsman Ahmed Shehzad on Pakistan's preparation for this tour

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jawwad on January 15, 2016, 5:30 GMT

    The New Zealand are playing most exciting cricket at the moment. They are the best team to watch at the world stage. With the hype around Mohammed Amir coming back and the form NZ are in, it's going to be one heck of a viewing.

  • Ch Jamil on January 15, 2016, 5:19 GMT

    ammir is good bowler I m so excited to see him again in international cricket wish him good luck

  • Rizwan on January 15, 2016, 4:56 GMT

    It is surprising that most people are talking about fast and bowling and nobody is talking about Imad and Afridi. I think these two will play a decisive role in the match

  • Beau on January 15, 2016, 4:42 GMT

    Wait, was this a preview of a match? "Amir in Focus". No kidding! This whole article is about him. This wouldn't bother me so much if I hadn't just spent the entire Sri Lanka tour reading about Sri Lanka. When Sri Lanka won, the articles were about Sri Lanka winning. If NZ won, the articles were about SL losing. Does Andrew Fernando really find NZ cricket so boring that he can only write about their opposition?

  • sushant rawat on January 15, 2016, 4:41 GMT

    Great to see him back, have a happy hunting

  • Michael on January 15, 2016, 4:34 GMT

    Mohammad Amir was 17 when he participated in Spot Fixing. If he had been in his mid-20s or older I'd not want to see him back, but he deserves a second chance. I hope both teams play to their potential tonight and provide a tight, exciting match.

  • talhabutt on January 15, 2016, 4:14 GMT

    A sensational t20 between two sensational teams full of zeal and passion.

  • dexter on January 15, 2016, 3:32 GMT

    Wanna see Guptill and company smash this formidable Pakistan bowling attack spear headed by Amir like they did the Sri Lankans. I guarantee that's not gonna happen. Guptill has met his match I guarantee it.

  • Khan on January 15, 2016, 2:53 GMT

    He did his crime, and did his time... give him a break. He was young. Good luck to both teams.

  • AJ on January 15, 2016, 2:02 GMT

    If these Pakistan bowlers fire, it will highlight the seriously deficiencies in this Kiwi batting line up. Latham is not a ODI player and Ronchi needs time in the middle or is likely gone. Guptil is great against any team that doesn't have the best bowlers.

    Exciting to see Munro, I think he's a better prospect than McCullum.

    Can't wait to see Amir and if he gets that bounce and sideways movement. Such a McGrath-like player. I have always rated Riaz. I just worry about the Pakistan batting. There's some potential there, but these guys need time in the middle to build some stats.

    Wish Afridi was playing.

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