New Zealand v Pakistan, ICC World Twenty20, The Oval June 12, 2009

Pakistan look to keep the spark alive

Match facts

Saturday, June 13
Start time 1730 local (1630 GMT)

Big Picture

If Pakistan are to achieve anything significant in this tournament as a team they will have to do so inspite of themselves.

As a bowling unit they have been both wasteful and outstanding. The comeback to halt Sri Lanka on Friday was as good as they have been, but the waste of Sohail Tanvir's first over and the extras ultimately rendered it futile. It is an age-old problem and will not be resolved overnight. As a batting side, they have lacked the bombast required to negotiate the Powerplay and even the nous to keep singles coming along. Younis Khan has battled alone and if it is said that he is not a Twenty20 player, it is forgotten that he needs others to play around him. With bat in hand he has done his job, more than many expected; his colleagues have failed him. The less said about the fielding the better, though at least they didn't drop any catches against Sri Lanka.

These are elementary things and it will require something special to overcome them. Loathe as we should be to say it, Pakistan's progress depends on one of those bewildering, fascinating, unexpected individual hands that occur from time to time. A Shahid Afridi or Umar Gul spell, an Abdul Razzaq or Misbah-ul-Haq special; something, anything, any spark for they are perilously close to being extinguished fully.

As with Sri Lanka, their record against New Zealand in big tournaments is solid; they've won nine of 12, and if this were a semi-final you'd bet on Pakistan such has been their dominance over the Kiwis at that stage. But it isn't and in any case Sri Lanka rendered a similarly poor record irrelevant. New Zealand's concerns are primarily of a medical nature. Jesse Ryder is gone and Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori, vital cogs both, are still hampered; Vettori has yet to play a game in the tournament.

Though one McCullum has done well, they wouldn't mind a Brendon spectacular either. Like India to an extent, they are untested, especially their batting; wins over Scotland are Ireland will count for little and the loss to South Africa, where their batsmen struggled, was a dead tie.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)

Pakistan: LWLWL

New Zealand: WLWWW

Watch out for...

Abdul Razzaq has unwittingly set himself up as a potential saviour and wildcard. Such is Pakistan's despair that the fact that he hasn't played international cricket for two years or that he was in dire form when he last did so, doesn't matter much. Razzaq's return has, over the last two days, been viewed by many to be just the tonic to galvanise Pakistan. Don't rely on it but if he did do something special with bat or ball - he was at least outstanding in the ICL - you wouldn't be entirely surprised.

Aaron Redmond's return to New Zealand colours was similar in a sense though as a replacement for Jesse Ryder, he had vastly bigger shoes to fill. He brought all the verve of one who wasn't expecting any such opportunity in his 30-ball 63 against Scotland and you wouldn't bet against a repeat. If Brendon McCullum finally locates his range, Redmond may not be needed.

Team news

If Pakistan don't drop Salman Butt now then it will be the most emphatic confirmation that they are not taking this tournament seriously enough. Sohail Tanvir's troubles are more complex but now may not be the time to patiently see him through them. Razzaq is certain to come in. The question is who else will?

Pakistan: (probable) 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Shoaib Malik, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq, 5 Younis Khan (capt), 6 Abdul Razzaq, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Fawad Alam, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Mohammad Aamer, 11 Saeed Ajmal

New Zealand will only hope that both Daniel Vettori and Ross Taylor are fit enough to play.

New Zealand: (probable) 1 Brendon McCullum (capt), 2 Aaron Redmond, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Scott Styris, 5 Jacob Oram, 6 Peter McGlashan (wk), 7 James Franklin, 8 Neil Broom, 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Ian Butler, 11 Kyle Mills

Stats and Trivia

  • Younis Khan is the tournament's second-highest run-scorer, averaging 66 with a strike rate of 150. Decent figures for a man not considered to be a Twenty20 player by his own (ex-) chief selector.

  • New Zealand have lost to Pakistan three times in a World Cup semi-final; 1992 and 1999 in 50-over World Cups and in the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup.

    Quotes

    "In every single game we've had trouble with our start. Today was a crucial game and we had back-to-back no-balls in the first over."

    Pakistan captain Younis Khan talks about putting the wrong step forward.

    "When you've got nothing to lose you go out there and give it a go. I was pleased it came off. I got a couple in the slot early on and took it from there."

    Aaron Redmond on his innings against Ireland.

    Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo