ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

New Zealand v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Pallekele

New Zealand brace for in-form Pakistan

The Preview by George Binoy

March 7, 2011

Comments: 132 | Text size: A | A

Match Facts

March 8, Pallekele
Start time 14.30 local (09.00 GMT)

Can you spot Shoaib Akhtar's head as he bowls during a net session, World cup, Pallekele, March 7, 2011
The fast bowlers could find the Pallekele pitch more to their liking than the ones in Colombo and Hambantota © AFP
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The Big Picture

The pressure on the Test teams in Group A, unlike those scrumming in Group B, is of a milder nature. The teams in Group B are securing quarter-final qualification first and looking after their positions in the process. Unless Zimbabwe scores an unlikely upset, however, all four Test teams in Group A are ensured of a place in the knockouts. They are merely jostling for places at present. Of the strongest, New Zealand are the weakest. Their opponents on Tuesday, Pakistan, are the only team to win everything so far.

New Zealand have beaten Kenya and Zimbabwe - by a ten-wicket margin no less - and another victory against Canada will see them through. It's that brittle performance against Australia, however, that is an indication of the difficulty they will face against formidable sides. On paper, like previous New Zealand teams, this one also has the facets of a fighting outfit.

They have explosive hitters, theoretically bat extremely deep, and have an abundance of bowling options, fast and slow. Their fielding, as ever, is among the best. Their problems are a combination of form, poor technique, and impatience that led to several batsmen chasing and edging wide deliveries against Australia. It's the batting that needs fixing first, for without runs on the subcontinent there is little hope, and they'll have to do it against one of the tournament's most in-form bowling attacks.

The odds on Pakistan being the only team with a 100% win record halfway into the league stage would have been rather high at the start of the World Cup. They weren't being talked up in the lead-up to the tournament - the spot-fixing scandal and the uncertainty over the one-day captaincy overshadowing their performances on the field. But they put Kenya and Canada away and in between those victories toppled tournament favourites Sri Lanka.

Their middle order has largely been solid, and the one time it failed - against Canada - their bowlers raised their game to meet the challenge. They've met and beaten New Zealand in a one-day series immediately preceeding the World cup. Play to potential and Pakistan will expect to dispatch them again tomorrow. Slip, and it could be the opening New Zealand need to rediscover their efficient game.

Form guide

(completed matches, most recent first)

New Zealand WLWWL

Pakistan WWWLW

Watch out for...

Shahid Afridi the bowler, who has been a vastly more dangerous opponent than Afridi the batsman in recent years. He is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, with 14 from three matches, including two five-wicket hauls. He tests batsmen with legbreaks, straighter ones and googlies. And then there's the fast ball that tears at batsmen at 130 kph, leaving them no time to react if they've come ill prepared. Afridi has at least four more matches to beat Glenn McGrath's tournament record of 26 wickets - in 2007 - and needs 13 more. He, as always, is Pakistan's talisman in the field, and if New Zealand give him a foothold, he will swarm all over them.

Tim Southee won't be ranked high on the list of the tournament's most dangerous bowlers but he's done tidily so far, picking up seven wickets at an average of 12.42 with an economy of 3.43. He swings the ball both in and out, bowls a probing wicket-to-wicket line, and has a useful yorker during the end overs. The challenge for him, however, is to strike and maintain a low economy on the subcontinent, where conditions are different from the ones he thrives in. Pallekele is an unknown quantity and there are indications that the pitch there could be faster than elsewhere.

Team news

New Zealand completed a clinical dismantling of Zimbabwe to put their campaign back on track and there seems to be no reason to change that winning combination. Brendon McCullum suffered from some soreness but is expected to play against Pakistan.

New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum (wk), 3 Jesse Ryder, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 James Franklin, 6 Scott Styris, 7 Nathan McCullum, 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Hamish Bennett.

Pakistan are likely to make one change and bring back Shoaib Akhtar, who missed the game against Canada, for Wahab Riaz. Abdur Rehman, the left-arm spinner, is recovering from his leg injury but is unlikely to be risked against New Zealand.

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

Pitch and conditions

Misbah-ul-Haq said the pitch was hard and had grass, indicating that there would be bounce. Daniel Vettori agreed, but no one can say for certain. Pallekele hasn't hosted an international game before. New Zealand, however, have played at the venue located in the hills near Kandy and bowled out a Sri Lanka A side for 91. The weather forecast is thankfully clear.

Stats and Trivia

  • Pakistan lost their first World Cup match against New Zealand in 1983. They won the next six.

  • Younis Khan averaged 21 and 12 in the previous two World Cups with a high score of 32. He's averaging 42.66 in this one with two half-centuries in three innings.

  • New Zealand's openers, Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill, average 135 and 118 in this World Cup. They have been dismissed only once each in three innings.


"We've not been able to put consistent team performances together. That's pretty much where we've let ourselves down in the past. Hopefully there is some confidence from the Zimbabwe game. If we can bring the same performance in this game then it's going to be huge for us in the tournament."
Daniel Vettori hopes his team will build on the Zimbabwe win

"They just can't target me, because before me there are three or four batsmen who can get hundreds. They can't wait for me only. We are playing with six batsmen so every batsman is important."
Misbah-ul-Haq attempts to divert New Zealand's focus from him.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 132 
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Posted by Dummy4 on (March 10, 2011, 7:53 GMT)

May live long Pakistan . We beat Kiwis Soon.Inshallah

Posted by Shahid on (March 8, 2011, 11:04 GMT)

INSHALLAH PAK wiLL wIn .... :))

Posted by Raihan on (March 8, 2011, 8:40 GMT)

This is going to be interesting and another test for Pakistan to prove themselves. This is the first time they will be batting second in this tournament so it gets even more important for the batsmen to perform. BEST OF LUCK TO PAKISTAN TEAM.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 8, 2011, 8:33 GMT)

and all this while I was thinking Pallekele was a player :)

Posted by ram on (March 8, 2011, 8:27 GMT)

The only bowler who could bowl without a HEAD a picture is worth more than 1000 words lol.

Posted by sarim on (March 8, 2011, 8:10 GMT)

Well i think both teams have an equal chance of winning but i think pakistan are speaking a bit too much on their part...... giving both their plans and weaknesses to the opposition..... But you never know when pakistan will cum gud i only wish we hd a octupus toooo..... tht would make cricket all the worth watching nt tht it isnt without it peace...

Posted by atif on (March 8, 2011, 8:09 GMT)

We as a nation believe that we are going to win this WC. No other country needs this and deserves this than we do. COME ON PAKISTAN

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 8, 2011, 7:34 GMT)

Today its PAKISTAN vs Hemish Bennett...... I dont know why everybody is ignoring this dangerous inform bowler..If Pakistani batting line up can succumb to Bennitts swinging short pitch deliveries.. ONL THEN PAKISTAN CAN WIN... and I hope today Pakistan will play him pretty well..I have heard that the pitch today will support fast bowlers,if it is so then Pakistan team should watch out for Bennit. I love this bowler... I hope my favourite Kamran Akmal scoresa fast 100 today. InshaAllah.

Posted by Ananth on (March 8, 2011, 7:28 GMT)

ALL THE BEST TO KIWIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 8, 2011, 7:21 GMT)

All the pitches will going to use for second times , will make low scoring games. I like if we can expect hit all over the ground. but my gut feeling is this will be the last match we can expect to have high scoring game Sri lanka.i do expect more than 300 would chasable at Pallekalle. But other 3 matches will be played here, I bet 250 will be a sizable score at any stance.!

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George Binoy Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket
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