Stephen Fleming, after a triangular series dominated by low-scoring and closely fought matches, believes that the final of the Bank Alfalah Cup between New Zealand and Pakistan will be won by the team that is best able to cope with the extra pressure of the tournament final.
New Zealand are searching for what would be their first major win in a limited-overs tournament since the ICC Knockout in 2000, while Pakistan are hoping to clinch their second successive tournament since bouncing out of the World Cup in the first round.
The teams are evenly matched, having each won two games out of four in the tri-series, and both will be missing the services of their main strike bowlers. New Zealand lost Shane Bond early on with a stress fracture in the back, while Pakistan will miss Shoaib Akhtar, who was banned for two matches for tampering with the ball during the last game.
But Fleming is confident that New Zealand's senior players will be able to rise to the occasion of a final and put pressure on an inexperienced Pakistan outfit. "We have got the experience and that has got to count for something," he said. "Pressure is going to be the key ... we have got to get on top early on so that the young players of Pakistan feel the pressure of a final situation."
Rashid Latif, meanwhile, tried to lighten the burden of expectation of his young side, claiming that they were the underdogs and that he was more concerned about the performance than the result. "New Zealand have much more experience than us and they have some world class players - they are a better side. I am happy with our performances here and in Sharjah and want that to continue."
He played down the importance of Akhtar to the side, although he admitted he would be missed. "Shoaib [Akhtar] is a world class bowler, and we will miss him, but I am relying on 11 players, not on one bowler to win the match," he said. Latif also publicly backed Shoaib, whose exemplary off-field behaviour during the tour has pleased the team management: "If we win this game we will dedicate the victory to him."
Pakistan will make two changes, including Shabbir Ahmed as Akhtar's replacement, and replacing Taufeeq Umar, who has been out of form throughout the tournament, with Faisal Athar, who will be making his debut.
New Zealand welcome back Jacob Oram, who missed the last two games with a back strain, into the side in place of Paul Wiseman. Wiseman was stood down after Fleming backed his pace bowlers on the Dambulla pitch. Daniel Vettori has recovered from the sore knee that saw him bat with a runner in the last game.
New Zealand 1 Stephen Fleming (capt), 2 Chris Nevin, 3 Lou Vincent, 4 Scott Styris, 5 Chris Cairns, 6 Chris Harris, 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Brendon McCullum (wk), 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Daniel Vettori, 11 Daryl Tuffey.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Faisal Athar, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Yasir Hameed, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Yousuf Youhana, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Rashid Latif (capt, wk), 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Danish Kaneria, 10 Mohammad Sami, 11 Shabbir Ahmed.