Series on the line at Westpac Stadium
January 22, 2015
Start time 1900 local (0600 GMT)
Just the way the two teams sit together - with 114 rating points each - in the ICC T20I rankings, Pakistan and New Zealand have kept the series alive and hard-fought. Pakistan will get some more T20 practice in the Asia Cup before heading to India for the World T20, but for New Zealand it is their last chance to do some final fine-tuning in the format.
Pakistan's top order has not scored much so far, barring Mohammad Hafeez's 61 in the first T20 in Eden Park, and has left much to the middle and lower order, and most of it to Umar Akmal. Having batted first in both T20s, Pakistan's plans might go a bit more awry if New Zealand bat first and add more pressure on Pakistan's top order.
New Zealand's case has been the opposite - their top order has been prolific with Kane Williamson making 70 and 72 and Martin Guptill also in brutal form. Their middle order, though, still remains untested. If Pakistan's bowlers find a way to get past Williamson and bring out the middle order early, it could be their best chance to lift the T20 trophy.
Among the bowlers, the New Zealand pacers have leaked plenty of runs, apart from Mitchell McClenaghan in the second T20. The spinners have fared better for both teams. Mohammad Amir's comeback hasn't been remarkable, and Umar Gul's economy rate of 9.33 hasn't given Pakistan any respite either. It was only Shahid Afridi and Imad Wasim who stifled the hosts in Auckland, before all were taken apart in Hamilton.
New Zealand WLWWW (last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Ross Taylor, the most experienced batsman in the squad, was rested for the first T20 but didn't get a chance to bat in the second. He had a prolific 2015 with 1699 international runs at an average of 50, with five hundreds and five fifties but is yet to produce a strong performance in 2016. He'd love some T20 form going into the World T20.
Mohammad Amir has made an uneventful comeback to the international arena after his return was fast-tracked by the PCB. He took a wicket with a full-toss in the first T20 and got no returns for the 34 runs he leaked in three overs in the second match. To prove that he didn't need any more domestic performances to come back to internationals, fewer runs and more wickets would help his case.
New Zealand's pace attack was buoyed by the return of McClenaghan, who took 2 for 23 in the second match, and the batting line-up looks strong as usual. That might keep their XI unchanged for the decider unless they replace the legspinner Todd Astle, who has been expensive, with another pacer.
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 Mitchell Santner, 9 Adam Milne, 10 Mitchell McClenaghan, 11 Trent Boult/Matt Henry
Wahab Riaz suffered a bruise after being hit on his left forearm in the nets on Tuesday, but he has recovered enough to play on Friday, according to team physio Brad Robinson. Pakistan's combination is still likely to change. Sohaib Maqsood's duck in the first T20 and a scratchy 18 in the second has put his place in doubt. Mohammad Rizwan might replace him. Umar Gul's expensive spells might give Anwar Ali a chance.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Rizwan, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shahid Afridi (capt), 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Umar Gul/Anwar Ali, 11 Mohammad Amir
Pitch and conditions
A cloudy evening is expected in Wellington on Friday with temperatures sub-20 degrees. Some breeze is expected too but the design of the Westpac Stadium may not allow all of it in.
Stats and trivia
- Shahid Afridi needs two more victories to equal Mohammad Hafeez's record of most wins as Pakistan captain in T20Is. Hafeez has 18 wins from 29 games compared to Afridi's 16 from 34
- Martin Guptill requires two more fours to become the second player after Brendon McCullum to do the double of 150 fours and 50 sixes in T20Is
- Another 70-plus score for Williamson will make him only the second player after Mahela Jayawardene to score 70 or more in three consecutive T20I innings
"I just had coffee with Guppy before and he was raving about how no one's hit it twice. Hopefully Colin can hit it up there and it can be two of them."
Ross Taylor on the feat of hitting the ball on to the roof of the Westpac Stadium.
"The match is important as it will help us build our combination ahead of the World T20. We are capable of winning against any team in the world."
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo