New Zealand hope for middle-order revival
January 17, 2016
Start time 1900 local (0600 GMT)
Sri Lanka and Pakistan have become used to rubbing each others' backs over the past few years, as their boards have buddied up and organised tours on an annual basis. In New Zealand, Sri Lanka have gone the extra mile to do Pakistan a favour: by scoring so few runs in the previous series that New Zealand did not need their middle order to defeat them. That middle order then turned up rusty against Pakistan, on Friday. Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott, Mitchell Santner and Luke Ronchi all fell for single figures, within 18 runs of each other. The hosts' chase never recovered.
It is the variety, quality and experience in Pakistan's attack that appears the greatest threat to New Zealand this series. In Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul and Mohammad Amir, the visitors have three sharp quicks, each with his own particular mode of attack. Imad Wasim has delivered tight left-arm spin since his arrival at the top level last year, while Shahid Afridi's legspin continues to prosper. They also have Shoaib Malik's part-time offbreaks, should any of their frontline options falter.
New Zealand were without their best bowler - Tim Southee - and most experienced batsman - Ross Taylor - for that first game, however, and Taylor's likely return in Hamilton will bolster that middle order. The openers will be eager regain their tone-setting form as well. Kane Williamson was made to seem human in that first match, having dropped a catch, run his partner out, and made a stalling start to his own innings. Mistakes from him have been both rare and rarely repeated.
(last five matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: LWWWL
In the spotlight
In two Eden Park T20s, Colin Munro has struck 106 from 41 deliveries, sealing one game and keeping his team alive in the other. His clean striking has almost filled the firepower void left by Brendon McCullum's absence. Munro has one foot in the World T20 squad. Another decent innings in either of the two coming matches will ensure he is on that flight to India.
He may be approaching the end of his career, but Shahid Afridi is still the life of this Pakistan team's party, cracking cameos from the middle order, striking star-man poses, and occasionally engaging teammates in animated on-field discussions. He hit a rapid 23, took two wickets and claimed three catches on Friday. Seddon Park is not quite as small as the ground in Auckland, but its dimensions will still suit Afridi's manic hitting.
Taylor's return after a one-match rest will probably force one of the frontline spinners out of the side. With New Zealand having seen plenty of Mitchell Santner over their summer, maybe they will give Todd Astle another run. Mitchell McClenaghan may also play, depending on whether he has recovered from the niggle that kept him out on Friday.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Kane Williamson (capt.), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Colin Munro 4 Corey Anderson, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Grant Elliott, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Todd Astle, 9 Adam Milne, 10 Matt Henry, 11 Trent Boult
Pakistan will probably keep an unchanged XI.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Sohaib Maqsood , 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shahid Afridi (capt), 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Mohammad Amir
Pitch and conditions
Limited-overs pitches in Hamilton have generally been conducive to high scores. The weather is expected to remain fine for the evening, with temperatures in the low 20-degrees Celsius range.
Stats and trivia
- Imad Wasim's economy rate after six T20s is 4.77.
- New Zealand won the only other T20 these teams have played in Hamilton, in 2010.
- Kane Williamson has led New Zealand in 10 T20s, with his team having won exactly half.
"We have a come across Afridi a few times in T20 and have a number of plans for him, but if you don't execute then he is able to take you apart with the bat. That cameo gave them some impetus. With the ball, we were able to take to him early but he came back really well. He is a fine cricketer and he has been around a while so he is a pretty wily campaigner."
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson on Shahid Afridi
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando