New Zealand wary of Pakistan threat

PALLEKELE: New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori has demanded a complete performance against a threatening Pakistan bowling attack when the two teams meet in a World Cup Group A match on Tuesday.

Led by skipper Shahid Afridi’s leg-spin, Pakistan possess variety in their bowling with off-spinners Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez, coupled with a strong new-ball attack of Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz.

Vettori feels the attack, against which New Zealand lost a one-day series 3-2 at home last month, will be tough to handle.

“I think we know how good their bowling can be,” said Vettori. “They can probably defend any score because of the nature of their bowlers, they bring a lot to the table.”

Pakistan successfully defended a below-par 185-run target against Canada and 278 against co-hosts Sri Lanka in the two of their three matches.

Afridi has 14 wickets – the highest in the tournament.

Akhtar took two crucial wickets in the 11-run win over Sri Lanka before being rested for the 46-run win over Canada, which gave Pakistan six points from three matches and top place in the group.

New Zealand, who lost to Australia by seven wickets but eased past Kenya and Zimbawe by 10 wickets in each game, have four points after three matches.

“We know to win these big games it needs complete team performances and that’s what we have done.

“It’s a matter of stepping up against the harder teams,” said Vettori, whose country has lost six World Cup matches against Pakistan since winning their first in 1983.

Unlike the bowling head-to-head, New Zealand hold the upper hand in batting, with openers Martin Guptill (86) and Brendon McCullum (76) chasing a 186-run target against Zimbabwe without being separated.

“I’m not sure you could ask for too much more, we wanted complete performances out of ourselves and that we gave in the last match,” said Vettori, whose team have made the semi-finals in the last three World Cups.

Pakistan, with six points in three matches, have one foot in the quarter-finals, while New Zealand need a win in a match which could be hit by rain.

The hill town of Kandy has suffered from persistent rains and the only international match here, a Test between Sri Lanka and the West Indies in December, was drawn without a single innings completed in five days.

The warm-up matches before the World Cup were also moved because of bad weather.

Afridi promised his team will play hard, irrespective of the rain threat.

“What we can control is our performance, and rain is something which we can’t control,” said Afridi, who disagreed last month’s series win over their rivals would count.

“I think it’s a new game, we did win a series in New Zealand but this is a World Cup and every team has come into it with full preparations, so we won’t sit on those wins.”

“It will depend on how we play on that particular day so we need to be at our hundred per cent to beat New Zealand, especially after the way they beat Zimbabwe so emphatically,” said Afridi.

Paceman Akhtar will return to the squad, but left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman may not be risked despite recovering from a leg muscle injury.