Until the previous game, Pakistan enjoyed a nine-game winning ODI streak stretching all the way back to the Champions Trophy last June. So clinically were they beaten in the first ODI in Wellington, that it felt like Pakistan fans' fears about it being a flash in the pan look to have re-emerged. It wasn't entirely surprising, however; New Zealand at home pose a very unique challenge, and have been one of the form sides off late. But the loss in the opening game brought Pakistan back down to earth sharply, and it is crucial that they respond as soon as they can. The Saxton Oval on Tuesday would do just fine.
New Zealand are bursting with confidence, their powerful bowling unit and explosive batsmen looking to capitalise on the run of good form. Everything looks to be going according to plan; the captain is in form, the openers have clicked, the middle order has done its job, and the fast bowlers have hit the deck exceptionally well. At the same time, New Zealand will be cerebral enough to appreciate the unpredictability of their visitors, and look to guard against complacency on their part. After all, Pakistan lost to India in their opening game in the Champions Trophy, before turning their form around to end up with the title.
Pakistan would have been banking on their bowlers, but they were off colour in Wellington, with Mohammad Amir and Rumman Raees conceding 57 and 68 runs respectively. Hasan Ali did manage to take three wickets, but leaked too many runs, and the fearsome pace unit was comfortably outdone by New Zealand's fast bowlers. While Pakistan will also look for their senior batsmen to stand up, supporting the younger lot is important, too. Fakhar Zaman was their only plus in a dispiriting first game, while Faheem Ashraf looked sharp in his little cameo before rain put paid to the game. The bowlers, meanwhile, need to shake off the rust to carry their weight.
New Zealand WWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Zaman proved dangerous, but the onus is on Pakistan's two senior-most campaigners, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, to take their share of responsibility with bat in hand. Both bring a lot of experience in the side together, and while Malik has historically struggled in New Zealand, Hafeez averages 37.10 in the country, nearly five runs higher than his career average. Both may also feel the pressure to justify their inclusion, as they are effectively playing as specialist batsmen instead of as allrounders. Hafeez was banned from bowling last year, while Sarfraz Ahmed seemed extremely reluctant to give Malik the ball in Wellington, preferring the more innocuous Zaman to make up the overs.
Lockie Fergusonbowled at consistently over 145 kph, with his fastest delivery bowled at 153.4 kph. He remained wicketless in a rain-interrupted game, but hugely impressed nonetheless, and the batsmen's discomfort at playing him, particularly in his first spell, was evident. Besides, from a purely aesthetic perspective, watching a fast bowler steaming in, given the licence to operate at those kinds of speeds is a rare treat these days. If he can keep it up for the rest of the series, there's no question that wickets column should begin to tick over rapidly.
New Zealand are expected to field an unchanged side. Pakistan, while disappointing on Saturday, will look to recreate the spark that saw them perform to their potential in Nelson - the venue for this ODI - in a tour game last week. They, too, are expected to field the same eleven.
New Zealand (probable): Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (capt), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult
Pakistan (probable): Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt/wk), Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees
Pitch and conditions
The forecast in Nelson isn't ideal, with rain expected throughout the week. Clouds may clear early enough for the game to begin on time, though stoppages would not be a surprise.
As for the pitch, it has historically been slower than most New Zealand surfaces, and so the spinners may find themselves more in the game than they did in Wellington.
Stats and trivia
Zaman made his ODI debut in the second game of the Champions Trophy, and had won all nine of the ODIS he had played until the loss in Wellington. His average didn't suffer for it, however, going up nearly ten runs to 53.55.
Of the eight completed ODIs played at the Saxton Oval, six have been won by the chasing side. New Zealand have won four and lost just one of the five ODIs they've played at this ground.
'We have a young side but have the potential to beat anyone. We have skill and it won't be an easy task for New Zealand to win the series.'
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood
'They do have a good attack all round, they complement each other well and they're a well balanced side, much like ourselves. It is a tough series and it's important we're good again in the next [ODI]."
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson