- Pakistan beat South Africa in their last match at Lord’s to keep their hopes of reaching the knockout stages alive
- Azhar Mahmood wants Pakistan to win the early battles to help their chances against New Zealand
Azhar Mahmood has warned Pakistan they must win the early battles in their clash with New Zealand if they are to stand any chance of toppling the unbeaten Black Caps.
Buoyed by victory over South Africa last time out, the resurgent ICC Champions Trophy 2017 winners will look to continue their late charge for a semi-final berth at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
With Haris Sohail starring with the bat at Lord's and the Mohammad Amir sitting atop the list of ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 wicket-takers, a tight encounter could well ensue against Kane Williamson's in-form side.
But Mahmood, now a bowling coach within the Pakistan setup, insists renewed promise will count for nothing if the Men in Green don't win the battle of the opening powerplay.
"They are a very strong side and have won all their games," he told a press conference ahead of the game.
"They've got matchwinners in their side, so it's going to be crucial for us to take wickets with the new ball.
"And when we bat, we need to get runs up front.
"If we can get our discipline right like last game - in batting, bowling and fielding - then we can beat any side.
"If we do the basics right, it's just about us, not them."
Still well within the hunt for a cherished top-four berth, Pakistan have been indebted to the exceptional form of Mohammad Amir for helping to keep their qualification hopes alive.
The standout member of the Men in Green's pace attack so far, Amir's form after a difficult start to 2019 has been held up as a reference point for others within the squad - particularly fellow paceman Hasan Ali.
Yet to play a pivotal role with the ball, Mahmood believes the example of Amir shows a change in fortunes is just around the corner for Hasan.
"I think everyone in cricket, whether you're a batsman or bowler, goes through good and bad form," Mahmood added.
"So he's low on confidence. But he's running in, and working hard on and off the field.
"You can all see that.
"It's just a matter of getting wickets, and he'll be back.
"The same thing happened with Amir, you know. After the Champions Trophy, he was struggling - but still bowling well.
"Now you can see that he's having a good time.
"That's what has happened with Hasan Ali as well."