Pakistan flying but still problems at the top

Afridi's team have notched victories against Kenya, Sri Lanka and Canada but not without a few hiccups.

MUMBAI: Pakistan are flying in the World Cup after three straight wins but they still have problems right from the top which New Zealand will aim to exploit when the two meet in their Group A match in Kandy on Tuesday.

Shahid Afridi’s team have notched victories against Kenya, Sri Lanka and Canada but not without a few hiccups which have mainly come from their top order.

Openers Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad, have failed to provide the required stability which has increased the pressure on the middle order.

The 1992 champions were skittled for 184 in just 43 overs by Canada and it needed an inspiring bowling performance from captain Afridi to avert a shocking defeat.

“We did not have good shot selection and I think it’s a very good wake-up call for us for the next game,” said captain Afridi after the match.

“Myself and coach Waqar Younis will definitely talk to the boys and this will not happen again.

“We needed some partnerships and that’s what we were missing and that’s what the coach was saying. Partnerships are very important.”

Potent attack

The Pakistan bowling attack, however, looks capable of defending any total in the tournament.

In Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul, they have a more than potent new ball attack and both are capable of getting the ball to reverse when it gets old.

But the one man who has been a revelation for Pakistan with the ball is captain Afridi.

The charismatic captain has masked most of Pakistan’s defects with 14 wickets from three matches, including two five-wicket hauls.

New Zealand will be wary of that.

The Kiwis have won two out of their three matches in the tournament so far. But both wins have come against lesser opponents — Kenya and Zimbabwe — by 10 wickets each time.

Having lost the ODI series at home 3-2 to Pakistan just before the start of the World Cup, Vettori’s men will know their opposition’s strengths.

The capitulation at the hands of the Australian pace battery when New Zealand folded for just 206 runs will still be fresh in their memory.

It will not be easy against a confident Pakistan side either, who will have Gul, Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq in their ranks followed by a red-hot Afridi to bowl his leg spin.

The batting order has potential in Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor as the top four but it is absolutely crucial for New Zealand’s campaign that at least two out of the four spend some time at the crease.