THE REALITY CHECK - The Broader Perspective In the hills of the Sri Lankan hinterland at Pallekele – the venue’s first international –Pakistan today takes on New Zealand. Apart from the slight blip against Canada, where the meager total Pakistan took some defending, Pakistan so far have done appreciably well in this World Cup. With the nucleus of the side mostly kicking, Pakistan look self-assured and settled. Shoaib Akhtar is expected to be back in place of Wahab Riaz after being rested against Canada, and with Abdur Rehman still not fully fit, Saeed Ajmal can get another game.
The only worry of sorts is openers Muhammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shahzad still unable to put up a big stand. Both are talented and need just one game to get their confidence going. Their focus should be on playing straight and avoiding shuffling. There is also a suggestion that Abdul Razzaq might be promoted up the order and bat number three with Kamran Akmal going down the order. Pakistan should opt to bat second should they win the toss, so that the batsmen also get the chance to chase a target against a good team. So far Pakistan have only defended targets and this could become tricky in the knockout stage.
For his part, Daniel Vettori is wary of the threat Pakistan’s bowling poses, “They can probably defend any score because of the nature of their bowlers, they bring a lot to the table,” said he. While Pakistan stand qualified for quarterfinals, New Zealand needs to win here to stay alive. Shahid Afridi though is not making light of the Black Caps challenge. “We did win the series in New Zealand but this is World Cup… So we won't sit on those wins.” New Zealand has some capable hitters up the order. Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder can dent any opposition on their day.
And in bowling the Black Caps have some tidy seamers who can any juice in the pitch – quite like for it as it has been raining for a while in Pallekele. The odds will surely be with Pakistan. All the greenshirts need is to continue being confident and plan and execute well. Form Guide & Conditions With 51 wins and 34 losses out of 88 games, Pakistan enjoys a superior ODI record over New Zealand. Prior to the World Cup, Pakistan’s ODI series win against today’s opponents also gives the greenshirts psychological edge.
The pitch in Pallekele is unknown, this being the first ODI at this venue. Mostly clear in this otherwise rainy part of the pearl island, the weather forecast for today also predicts high humidity. Team winning toss will like to bat first as pitch can deteriorate as the day progresses. Watch Out For Martin Guptill is an improving modern-day opener. Hitting the ball well in this World Cup, with his clean strikes he can get New Zealand off to a good start.
Afridi is this World Cup's top wicket-taker, and a serious threat to an inconsistent New Zealand batting. Apart from his bowling, we all know what he can do with the bat. And the Kiwis will be well aware of him. Who Wins New Zealand can test them but Pakistan look in very good shape and should register a facile win. Likely Playing Elevens
New Zealand: Guptill, B McCullum (wk), Ryder, Taylor, Franklin, Styris, N
McCullum, Vettori, Mills, Southee, Bennett
Pakistan: Hafeez, Shahzad, K Akmal (wk), Younis, Misbah, U Akmal, Afridi, A Razzaq,
Gul, Shoaib, Ajmal.